Tag Archives: participation

Out of the Shadows: Nonprofit Governance Research from Democratic and Critical Perspectives

Chao Guo, Barbara A. Metelsky and Patricia Bradshaw

The goal of this book chapter is two-fold: 1) to review theoretical developments in the study of nonprofit governance from the perspectives of critical and democratic theories; and 2) to deconstruct the silences in the reviewed literatures, to reveal what has been kept in the shadows, and then identify research that might address these gaps. Consistent with critical and post-modern traditions, we start the chapter by declaring our commitment to democracy, inclusion, and power sharing. In the next section, we review and synthesize the democratic perspectives on the study of nonprofit governance, with a focus on theories of representation and participation. We then turn to the literature from various critical perspectives, and explore the roles that these perspectives play in illuminating often-neglected or overlooked aspects of nonprofit governance. We conclude with recommendations for a research agenda, and a discussion of how this agenda could inform the development of more participatory, inclusive, and change-oriented governance practices.

In C.J. Cornforth and W.A. Brown (eds.) New Perspectives on Nonprofit Governance. 2013. London: Routledge – Full Version



The Road Less Traveled: Establishing the Link between Nonprofit Governance and Democracy

Chao Guo

Editor’s Note:

Guo focuses on two research traditions that illuminate the relationship between governance and democracy, in the hope of shedding some new light into understanding the democratic deficit within the sector and its possible remedy. Because, as Guo concludes, “if the sector as a whole does not recognize that there is a tremendous unrealized potential for nonprofit governance to contribute to democracy, it could cost the sector quite dearly over time.” 

The Nonprofit Sector 19, No. 4 (2012): 26-31

Voice-In, Voice-Out: Constituent Participation and Advocacy Activities of Charitable Organizations

Chao Guo and Gregory D. Saxton

How do participatory constituent practices affect the scope and intensity of nonprofit advocacy? In this study, we examine this question through survey data from a random sample of charitable nonprofit organizations in Arizona in 2007. Our findings show that the scope and intensity of nonprofit advocacy tend to increase with constituent board membership, communication with constituents, and level of constituent involvement in strategic decision making. However, the scope and intensity of nonprofit advocacy tends to decrease with increased government funding and private contributions. These findings suggest important implications for organizations wishing to be more effective in influencing public policy.

Nonprofit Policy Forum, vol. 1, no. 1. 2010

Exploring the Issue of Representation in Chinese Nonprofit Organizations

Chao Guo, Zhibin Zhang and Dongjin Cai

China’s nonprofit and voluntary sector has been on the rise since the government launched its economic and political reforms in 1979. In light of their important roles as social service providers and advocates for the public interest, there have been growing concerns about the extent to which these organizations are representative of the interests of their members and constituents and are accountable for their actions and performance. In this paper, we explore the representational capacities of China’s nonprofit organizations, with a focus on grassroots organizations. Drawing upon Guo and Musso (2007), we examine the representativeness of these organizations along five major dimensions: substantive, symbolic, formal, descriptive, and participatory representation. We then present two illustrative cases of grassroots organizations to tease out the complexity of representational mixes found in these organizations. We conclude the paper with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications as well as future research directions.

Journal of Public Administration [Chinese] 2, No.3 (2009): 171-191

Representation in Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations: A Conceptual Framework

Chao Guo and Juliet A. Musso

It is held that nonprofit and voluntary organizations contribute to democratic governance by representing the interests of their constituents to the state. Yet little is known about the capacities of these organizations to represent effectively their constituents and the larger community. This study proposes a framework for understanding the varieties of representation in nonprofit and voluntary organizations. The authors argue that the nature of representation within an organization is indicated by five dimensions: substantive, symbolic, formal, descriptive, and participatory representation. Formal, descriptive, and participatory representation are different means of achieving substantive and symbolic representation; the latter being measures of the extent to which organizations “act for” and “stand for” particular constituencies. They further suggest that this conceptual framework serves as a useful first step toward examining the representational capacities of nonprofit organizations. Two illustrative cases of community-based organizations are presented to tease out the complexity of representational mixes found in nonprofits.

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 36, no. 2 (2007): 308-326