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Civil Society, Social Sector | Alaimo, Salvatore | 2011

Nonprofit organizations are often credited with their capacity to build networks of interpersonal trust and reciprocity; are perceived as relatively autonomous from political parties; and considered less bureaucratic and more innovative, cost-effective, and flexible. These perceptions are within the context of these organizations fulfilling an insufficiently or unmet need in society. Some scholars, theorists, and policymakers believe that because nonprofit organizations fill this role, the existence of our democratic society depends on a healthy nonprofit sector. However, in spite of these well-supported perspectives, the nonprofit sector has also generated skepticism related to accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, and overall performance due to several factors including but not limited to scandals, a largely self-regulated environment, and a lack of overall capacity to measure efficiency and effectiveness coupled with a sometimes misguided incentive system driven by institutional funders. It is this environment that drives the main purpose for this course which is to provide you with an understanding of the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the nonprofit sector alongside a grasp of the managerial issues currently faced by nonprofit organizations.
To achieve the objectives for this purpose, we will begin by examining the concept of “civil society” in its various incarnations, with special emphasis on the contributions of major writers of the Western philosophical tradition. We will analyze theoretical approaches that speak to the origins, behavior, and impact of nonprofits. This course serves to bridge discussion of theoretical underpinnings of the sector with the dilemmas of managing nonprofits through the use of case studies.