Sub-theme 19: Blurring Boundaries: Civil Society Organizations and Changing Societal Governance

Florentine Maier
WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
John M. Amis
University of Memphis, USA
Filip Wijkström
Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

Call for Papers

It has become apparent that the boundaries of responsibility for different aspects of societal governance are blurring. An important consequence of this is that the roles of organizations in different societal sectors have changed. Notably, civil society organizations (CSOs) – often called non-profit, voluntary, non-governmental or third sector organizations – are now regularly expected to be polyvalent entities able to intermesh resources and rationales from the public, commercial, and household sectors (Evers, 1995; Eikenberry & Kluver, 2005; Jegers, 2009). Further, non-traditional, CSO-like, citizen-based groups are forming to bring change to what are perceived to be oppressive government and or market regimes (e.g., the "Arab Spring" uprisings and the "Occupy" groups).

Public sector organizations face continuing pressures to improve efficiency and quality by introducing market mechanisms, and new demands for more accountability. To this end, changes are being made to their governance structures, and closer partnerships are being forged with for-profits and CSOs (Osborne, 2000; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2011). For-profit organizations are increasingly taking up tasks and operating in fields that were once the domain of governments or CSOs. In many parts of the world, this trend is evident in the delivery of education, health care, the protection of human rights, provision of security, protection of the environment, and the delivery of international aid (e.g., Scherer & Palazzo, 2011; Svedberg Helgesson & Mörth, 2012).

In this sub-theme, we seek to make sense of the changing roles of CSOs in this new landscape. Concepts such as 'intermediation' (Evers, 1995), the 'blurring' or 'mixing' of sectors and boundaries (Kramer, 2000; Bode, 2008), 'public private partnerships' (Osborne, 2000), and 'co-production' (Pestoff & Brandsen, 2009) have all been applied to make sense of these developments. We want to unveil the dynamics that drive these changes, the organizational and social mechanisms involved in facilitating them, and their outcomes. One example of such change is the decreasing effectiveness of national regulatory bodies that has corresponded with an increase in influence of transnational corporatism (Djelic & Sahlin-Andersson, 2006). Other relevant topics include, but are not limited to, technological advances that enable communication across borders of all types; economic constraints that lead to a reimagining of collaboration and collective action; and social pressures that have emerged from widespread dissatisfaction with various forms of inequality.


In keeping with the Colloquium theme, we welcome work that bridges sectors, cultures, continents and worldviews to expose new ways of understanding the evolving roles of CSOs. Work that is quantitative, qualitative, or conceptual is equally appropriate, as are studies focused at the societal, industry, or organizational level.



Bode, Ingo (2008):. 'Disorganized welfare mixes: voluntary agencies and new governance regimes in Western Europe.' Journal of European Social Policy, 18, 246–259.
Djelic, Marie-Laure & Kerstin Sahlin-Andersson (eds.) (2006): Transnational Governance: Institutional Dynamics of Regulation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Eikenberry, Angela M. & Jodie Drapal Kluver (2005): 'The marketization of the nonprofit sector: civil society at risk?' Public Administration Review, 64 (2), 132–140.
Evers, Adalbert (1995): 'Part of the welfare mix: the third sector as an intermediate area.' Voluntas, 6 (2), 159–182.
Jegers, Marc (2009): '"Corporate" governance in nonprofit organizations.' Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 20 (2), 143–164.
Kramer, Ralph M. (2000): 'A third sector in the third millennium?' Voluntas, 11 (1), 1–23.
Osborne, Stephen P. (2000): Public Private Partnerships: Theory and Practice in International Perspective. London: Routledge.
Pestoff, Victor & Taco Brandsen (eds.) (2009): Co-Production. The Third Sector and the Delivery of Public Services. London: Routledge.
Pollitt, Christopher & Geert Bouckaert (2011): Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis: New Public Management, Governance, and the Neo-Weberian State. New York: Oxford University Press.
Scherer, Andreas Georg & Guido Palazzo (2011): 'The new political role of business in a globalized world: a review of a new perspective on CSR and its implications for the firm, governance, and democracy.' Journal of Management Studies, 48 (4), 899–931.
Svedberg Helgesson, Karin & Ulrika Mörth (eds.) (2012): Securization, Accountability and Risk Management. Transforming the Public Security Domain. London: Routledge.


Florentine Maier is Assistant Professor at the Nonprofit Management Group at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business. She studies the spread of business thinking and business methods into the nonprofit sector. Her research on this topic has been published in 'Voluntas', 'Business Research', and numerous book chapters.
John M. Amis is Associate Professor in the Department of Management at the University of Memphis. His research interests centre on issues of organizational and institutional change. In addition to two books, he has published over 50 journal articles and book chapters, and sits on several editorial boards, including 'Academy of Management Review'.
Filip Wijkström is Associate Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics. His research focuses on the role of civil society and its organizations (CSOs). His recent work deals with the distinctiveness of civil society actors, and how CSOs work strategically with these features.