CFP – CGAP/VRADS symposium in NVSQ

Values, Culture, and Democracy in Voluntary and Advocacy Organizations

an NVSQ symposium Co-Sponsored by CGAP and VRADS sections

In what ways does being not for profit differentiate voluntary and advocacy organizations from their for-profit and/or public sector counterparts?  Why, and in what ways, do their substantive values matter?  And most importantly, where substantive values are put first, does this open up the prospect for a more involving, deliberate and democratic form of organization?  Put another way, we are interested in the substantive values, participatory processes and organizational cultures of not-for-profit and voluntary organizations.

Through this mini-symposium, we seek to deepen scholars’ understanding of the discovered relationships among these three elements.  We invite both theoretical and empirical submissions for a proposed special symposium in NVSQ that support this theme. Examples/samples upon which articles might be based could include any sort of grassroots community organization or national non-profit organization in which membership/participation is voluntary, such as churches, social service-oriented organizations, self help groups, social movement organizations, worker or consumer cooperatives, advocacy organizations or others.

As not-for-profit and voluntary organizations coordinate with outside agencies that are bureaucratic and rely more on professional paid staff than volunteers, these organizations often tend to reproduce conventional hierarchical organizational structures.  As Weber warned almost 100 years ago, this rationalization may replace substantive values with an allegiance to proper form, rules and procedures.  Some of what passes for ‘accountability’ today appears merely to justify procedure over an authentic devotion to substantive purposes.  Concern with efficiency can crowd out devotion to substantive purpose, robbing organizations of creative ideas and individual members of any autonomy in the process.  Yet, this rationalization is hardly an iron law. Some organizations remain more or less value-rational, as Weber termed them. Thus, it seems timely to consider how the substantive values comprise the basis of not-for-profit and voluntary organizations. Among the kinds of questions that would fit this discussion are:

  • What does it mean (or should it mean) in terms of organizational form and practice, that an organization is not-for-profit?
  • What effects do accountability mechanisms have on the enactment of substantive values?
  • How do the age and size of an organization and whether it has paid staff affect the values it effectively pursues?
  • What happens when a non-profit organization is shown to have violated its stated values or purposes through corrupt practices (that belie its basic mission)?  How does the organization respond to this information?
  • If the basis of non-profit and voluntary organizations is their other-than-profit (substantive) values, then what does this mean for the decision-making structures they choose? For the accountability methods they implement? For their organizational culture?
  • Does the whole concept of ‘efficiency’ need to be re-thought in organizations that are, first and foremost, devoted to advancing goals other than profit?  Can their members find sustained sources of satisfaction and meaning in them without recourse to formalization, hierarchy and bureaucracy?  If so, what does this alternative form of management look like?  Do different sorts of not-for-profits require or do best with different sorts of management?  If so, does this suggest a new typology of organizational forms for the not-for-profit and voluntary sector?
  • How can efficiency co-exist with high levels of participation and democracy?
  • Many rules and procedures in bureaucracies are established in order to address conflicts that may arise.  Can conflicts be just as easily (or more easily) addressed in cooperative, consensus-seeking organizations?  If so, how?
  • Does trust (and the social solidarity of participants that comes from mutual trust) play a more fundamental role in not-for-profits than it does in public or for-profit organizations?  Is trust simply more necessary for the smooth and enduring operation of volunteer-based, values-driven organizations?  If so, what are the implications of this for participant involvement and democratic structure of the organization?
  • What have we learned about how getting outside money (from the state and/or from for-profit organizations) affects structure and commitment in not-for-profit and social movement organizations?
  • What do substantive values such as social justice, peace or human rights imply for the organizational structures that are adopted and/or the organizational cultures that evolve in these democratized organizations?
  • Others…

Please note that this call is on a tight deadline. Authors of substantially complete papers on the proposed theme are asked to send abstracts now to the guest editors, Howard Lune ( and Edward L. Queen (

Full papers will be required for blind review by September 30, 2011.

Papers must be submitted to NVSQ using the journal’s manuscript management system at

Guidelines for submissions may be found at

Please note that identifying information for all authors are required on the cover page, and must be removed from all other pages.

N.B.: The cover page must specify that the submission is to be considered for the “Values, Culture, and Democracy in Voluntary and Advocacy Organizations” symposium.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s