An evaluation of the impact of the competitive pressures of new public management on the Voluntary Sector Organisations' effectiveness

Kiwanuka, Keefa (2011) An evaluation of the impact of the competitive pressures of new public management on the Voluntary Sector Organisations' effectiveness. (DBA thesis), Kingston University, .


Competition between the voluntary sector and across sectors has, over the years, intensified. As a result, a growing body of literature urge the voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) to adopt the best practices of the private sector, in order to demonstrate professionalism, win contracts and increase organisational survival. Such advocates assume the generic character of private-sector management practices and inherent structural similarities between organisations in both the voluntary and private sectors. However, if a VSO is to adopt the private sector practices to be able to more effectively compete, demonstrate effectiveness and continuous improvement, how would that impact on that VSO's effectiveness? Not much is known about the inner intricacies of VSOs experiencing drastic competitive pressures and having to adapt to ensure organisational survival. This study set out to evaluate the impact of such competitive pressures and the organisations' adaptive strategies on the VSOs' effectiveness. The study has taken on and challenged the market driven notion that the efficiency of markets and the value of competition should underpin the strategy for improving VSO's effectiveness and the delivery of public services. The researcher sought theoretical models that could provide an understanding of how social processes would determine the efficacy of VSOs in such a competitive environment. The neo-institutional and the resource dependence theories were preferred, enabling the study to predict the possible organisational behaviours; under competitive pressures. As result, five testable propositions were developed, based on the key institutional differences between the voluntary and the private sectors. The study then adopted a longitudinal comparative case study research method to test the propositions. Three case study organisations were selected, based on their sources of income, provisions and characteristics of organisations where change had occasioned concern amongst stakeholders. From an insider perspective, with at least two of the case organisations, the overall context of the pressures leading to adaptation at the three case study organisations was shaped by changes in the delivery of public services. Using a variety of qualitative data collection methods, a wide range of data was collected, triangulated and analysed. The study also drew on the long term professional and practical work experience of the researcher as a senior practicing manager within the voluntary sector, and as a reflective scholar-practitioner. The findings reveal that, as a result of competitive pressures, VSOs have to adapt to ensure organisational survival. Although this may be of some immediate benefits to the organisations, such adaptive strategies lead to goals and mission drifts; erode organisational independence and legitimacy; weaken democratic accountability and reduce wider participation. It reduces voluntarism, informality and diversity, and erodes the VSOs' traditional values and ethos. This has wider implications for the individual voluntary sector organisations, sector leaders and the public sector seeking to maximise the value of service delivery by the voluntary sector, and those advocating, indiscriminately, the adoption of private sector practices, as a strategy for improving voluntary sector effectiveness. The study provides an understanding of VSOs' organisational behaviours under competitive pressures, and the transformational effect that such competitive pressures may have on an organisation's distinctive capabilities.

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