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The Relevance of Organizational Structure to NGOs’ Approaches to the Policy Process

Abstract

NGOs are recognized as active participants in the policy process. There is general agreement that they are agenda setters and important actors in the framing of public issues. They are well-recognized providers of social services on behalf of, or in partnership with, private and public actors. Previous research demonstrates that the institutional context accounts for the extent of NGOs’ access to and influence over public policy making. Nonetheless, we know less about why there are important differences in the way they approach the policy process. Comparing the organizational evolution of two Spanish NGOs, both active in the field of humanitarian aid and poverty alleviation over a period of more than 50 years, this article contributes to our understanding of the relevance of organizational structure in NGOs as a determining factor in their role in public policy. Drawing on institutional organizational analysis, a theoretical framework is developed to assess the importance of organizational structure in explaining why NGOs take on different roles in the policy process, even when sharing the same institutional context. NGOs are driven by pre-existing institutions and legacy that affect the way they resolve conflict and engage in internal bargaining.

Résumé

Les ONG sont reconnues comme des participants actifs dans le processus politique. Il existe un accord général pour les considérer comme des acteurs qui définissent l’ordre du jour et des acteurs pertinents pour exprimer les problèmes publics. En outre, elles sont largement considérées comme des prestataires de services sociaux au nom des acteurs privés et publics ou en partenariat avec eux. Des recherches précédentes démontrent que le contexte institutionnel explique le niveau d’accès et d’influence des ONG sur les politiques publiques. Néanmoins, nous connaissons peu les raisons des différences importantes dans leur façon d’aborder le processus politique. En comparant l’évolution organisationnelle de deux ONG espagnoles actives dans le domaine de l’aide humanitaire et de la lutte contre la pauvreté sur une période de plus de cinquante ans, ce document nous aide à mieux comprendre l’adéquation de la structure organisationnelle des ONG comme élément déterminant leur rôle dans la politique publique. S’appuyant sur l’analyse institutionnelle et organisationnelle, un cadre théorique est élaboré pour évaluer l’importance de la structure des organisations en vue d’expliquer pourquoi les ONG ajoutent différents rôles dans la politique publique, même si elles partagent le même contexte institutionnel. Les ONG sont poussées par des institutions préexistantes et l’héritage qui affectent la façon dont elles règlent les conflits et les négociations internes.

Zusammenfassung

Nicht-staatliche Organisationen gelten als aktive Teilnehmer am politischen Prozess. Man ist sich allgemein darüber einig, dass sie die Tagesordnung diktieren und für die Ausarbeitung öffentlicher Probleme relevant sind. Darüber hinaus werden sie als Anbieter sozialer Dienstleistungen im Auftrag von bzw. in Partnerschaft mit privaten und öffentlichen Stellen anerkannt. Frühere Studien zeigen, dass der institutionelle Kontext das Ausmaß, in dem nicht-staatliche Organisationen Zugang zur öffentlichen Politik haben und diese beeinflussen können, bedingt. Doch wissen wir weniger über die Gründe für die bedeutenden Unterschiede bei ihrer Vorgehensweise im Rahmen des politischen Prozesses. Diese Arbeit trägt zu unserem Verständnis der Relevanz der organisatorischen Struktur nicht-staatlicher Organisationen als eine Determinante für ihre Rolle in der öffentlichen Politik bei, indem die organisatorische Entwicklung zweier spanischer nicht-staatlicher Organisationen, die im Bereich der humanitären Hilfe und Armutsbekämpfung aktiv sind, über einen Zeitraum von über 50 Jahren verglichen wird. Basierend auf der institutionellen Analyse und der Organisationsanalyse wird ein theoretisches Rahmenwerk zur Bemessung der Bedeutung der organisatorischen Struktur erstellt, um zu erklären, warum nicht-staatliche Organisationen selbst im gleichen institutionellen Kontext unterschiedliche Rollen in der öffentlichen Politik spielen. Nicht-staatliche Organisationen werden von zuvor bestehenden Institutionen und Systemen angetrieben, die darauf Einfluss nehmen, wie die Organisationen Konflikte lösen und interne Verhandlungen handhaben.

Resumen

Las ONG son reconocidas como participantes activas en el proceso político. Existe un amplio consenso en considerarlas como activas participantes en el establecimiento de la agenda y en el proceso de definición de los problemas públicos. También son muy reconocidas como proveedoras de servicios sociales a nombre de, o en asociación con, actores públicos y privados. Estudios previos demuestran que el contexto institucional explica en qué medida las ONG acceden e influyen en la política pública. Sin embargo, se sabe menos sobre por qué existen diferencias importantes en la forma en la que se aproximan al proceso político. Comparando la evolución organizativa de dos ONG españolas, activas en el campo de la ayuda humanitaria y la lucha contra la pobreza, a lo largo de un período de más de cincuenta años, el presente documento contribuye a entender la importancia de de la estructura organizativa de las ONG como determinante de su rol en la política pública. Partiendo del análisis institucional y de la teoría de las organizaciones, se desarrolla un marco teórico para evaluar la importancia de la estructura organizativa para explicar por qué las ONG asumen diferentes roles en la política pública, aunque compartan el mismo contexto institucional. Las ONG son guíadas por instituciones preexistentes y su legado, lo que afecta a la forma en la que resuelven el conflicto y la negociación interna.

非政府组织(NGOs)被公认为政策产生过程的积极参与者。在控制公众问题过程中,它们被视为议程设定者以及重要的行动者,这一点已经得到普遍认可。不论是代表私立或公共行动者还是与私立或公共行动者合作形式进行,它们还都被公认为是社会服务的提供者。之前的研究证明,制度背景是非政府组织接触与影响公共政策的程度决定因素之一。然而,为什么非政府组织参与政策制定的方式有如此重要之差异?对此我们知之较少。通过对两家西班牙非政府组织(该两家组织活跃于人道救援与扶贫领域已经超过五十年)的组织演变进行比较,本文可帮助我们理解NGO组织结构的相关性,而NGO在公共政策中扮演什么角色,组织结构是决定因素。在进行制度与组织分析的基础上,我们建立了用于评估组织机构之重要性的理论框架,以解释为什么NGOs在公共政策中扮演着不同的角色(即使当这些NGOs在相同的制度背景下)。NGOs受到既有制度与遗产的驱动,这些因素影响它们解决冲突与内部磋商的方式。

は、方針のプロセスにおける積極的な関与者として認識されている。議題設定やフレーミングの公共問題に関する行為者として一般的にみられている。また代理または公私の行為者と提携して、社会サービスのプロバイダーとして認識されている。先行研究は制度上のコンテキストとアカウントにおけるNGOの公共政策の影響を示している。それにもかかわらず、方針のプロセスにアプローチする方法において重要な違いがあることについてはほとんど知られていない。本論文では、人道援助と貧困撲滅の分野で 50 年以上の期間の活動を通じた、スペインの2団体のNGOにおける組織の進展を比較することによって、公共政策において役割を規定する要因となる NGOの組織構造との関連性の理解に貢献する。組織構造を評価するために、同じ組織内であっても開発された理論的な枠組制度と組織の構造の重要性を展開する。NGOは闘争と内部の契約を解決に影響する既存の組織と財産を決定する。

يتم التعرف على المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGOs) كمشاركين ناشطين في العملية السياسية. هناك موافقة عامة لإعتبارهم كواضعي جدول الأعمال وجهات فاعلة ذات الصلة في وضع إطار للمشاكل العامة. كما إنه معترف بهم كمقدمي خدمات إجتماعية لصالح، أو في شراكة مع الجهات الفاعلة الخاصة و العامة. يوضح البحث السابق أن السياق المؤسسي يحاسب من أجل توسيع وصول المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGOs) والتأثير في السياسة العامة. مع ذلك نحن نعرف القليل عن السبب في وجود إختلافات هامة في طريقة الإقتراب من العملية السياسية. بمقارنة التطور التنظيمي للمنظمتين الغير حكوميتين(NGOs) الأسبانية، النشطة في مجال المساعدات الإنسانية والتخفيف من حدة الفقر، من خلال فترة أكثر من خمسين عام، يساهم هذا البحث في فهمنا لأهمية الهيكل التنظيمي للمنظمات الغير حكومية (NGOs) كما هو محدد في دورها في الأماكن العامة السياسية. إستنادا˝ إلى تحليل المنظمات المؤسسي ووضع إطار نظري لتقييم الهيكل التنظيمي أهميةلشرح لماذا علامة المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGOs)على أدوار مختلفة في السياسة العامة، حتى عندما تقاسم نفس السياق المؤسسي. هي التي تحرك المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGOs) عن طريق المؤسسات القائمة والإرث الذي يؤثر على طريقة حل الصراع والمساومة الداخلية.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Most of this research uses advocacy groups to refer to NGOs that are included within the umbrella term of interest groups, which includes a variety of groups that differ in the nature and extent of the interests they defend or represent.

  2. 2.

    Klüver includes NGOs within the more general umbrella of interest groups, and throughout her article, she speaks in general about interest groups.

  3. 3.

    The CONGDE is formed by more than 495 NGOs and regional associations of NGOs with representation on regional and local councils for international development and foreign aid. Also, the CONGDE represents NGOs within the National Council for International Development of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  4. 4.

    To a large extent, NGODs in Spain have followed the same institutionalization trend as NGOs in other countries such as the United States and the UK. Environmental NGOs have been transformed into professional, bureaucratic, mainstream advocacy groups (Jordan and Maloney 1997). Major Spanish NGODs are led by managers, staffed by professional economists, lawyers and political scientists, sociologists, and experts in marketing and communication, and supported by researchers, public relations staff and fundraising departments. For example, Intermón-Oxfam is similar to other international NGOs such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Human Rights Watch in the sense that it operates along corporate lines; it follows a business strategy to establish an efficient use of resources, to maximize effectiveness and, above all, to ensure organizational survival in a highly competitive market (Jordan and Maloney 1997, p. 19). Intermón-Oxfam’s Jesuit roots link the organization with one of the most well-known business universities (ESADE) in Spain, which has specific postgraduate studies for managing NGOs.

  5. 5.

    As in other countries, the professionalization of staff in NGOs is related to technological progress—e.g. computerized databases, direct email, telemarketing, automatic payments, donations and contributions via text messaging, the internet and the most recent forms of social media (blogs, Facebook and Twitter, etc.) (Maloney 2012).

  6. 6.

    In terms of size (membership and resources), Intermón and Manos Unidas are the biggest NGOs for Development in Spain, besides Caritas and Cruz Roja Española (the Spanish Red Cross), which are bigger but devote part of their activities to alleviating poverty within Spain.

  7. 7.

    For the first time since its founding, Intermón reported a reduction of 18 % in its workforce in early 2011. This corresponded to declining revenues in all sectors of public and private funding (donations, grants and sales of fair trade products).

  8. 8.

    With an extensive academic background in international development, pursued studies at the University of Chicago and University of Essex (in education and development policy)—an exception in the context of Spain after the restoration of democracy. Magrinyà has largely focused on internal problems.

  9. 9.

    The encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967) is a statement that could be summarized as a social commitment to the most disadvantaged people in the world and an acceptance of secularization in the public sphere.

  10. 10.

    Following the criteria and methodology of the Reality of Aid Network (RoA).

  11. 11.

    Parliamentary testimony depends on the willingness of political parties to invite NGOs and other social groups to participate in congressional committees discussing a law or investigating an issue. It is assumed that political parties invite those groups considered experts and also those groups closer to their own political position. Most of these social groups are actually interest groups such as trade unions, chambers of commerce, professional associations and other social groups that defend or represent particular interests. NGOs are included within the umbrella term of interest groups since it includes a variety of groups that differ in the nature and extent of the interests they defend or represent.

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Acknowledgments

This research received support from the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovació (ref CSO-2012-31214) and the Agència de Gestió d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca de la Generalitat de Catalunya. I am grateful to Laura Chaqués-Bonafont, Anna Palau Roqué, William Maloney and John Wilkerson for their support, as well to the participants on the panel Lobbying, Information Asymmetry, and Groups’ Influence over Public Policy at the IPSA Conference in Madrid (2012), where an early draft was presented. Helpful comments were received from Patrick Bernhagen and also from the participants in the research seminar of the University of Barcelona’s Department of Constitutional Law and Political Science. Additionally, two reviewers provided exceptionally insightful comments.

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Marquez, L.M.M. The Relevance of Organizational Structure to NGOs’ Approaches to the Policy Process. Voluntas 27, 465–486 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-015-9555-5

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Keywords

  • NGO
  • Policy process
  • Organizational structure
  • Institutions
  • Norms