Call for Papers
In modern democratic societies, civil society and its institutional and organizational forms are often seen as the backbone of societal inclusiveness. However, civil society is a heterogeneous and diverse arena, comprising a wide range of organizational and individual actors in an intricate web of relationships. These relationships and varieties of stakeholders (Krashinsky, 1997) are the fundaments for creating, maintaining and developing civil society organizations (CSOs).
The constituting stakeholders come with different and sometimes divergent claims. Donors, funders, beneficiaries, volunteers, staff, regulators and others have different interests in, and representations of, the inclusiveness of a CSO. Elite actors have different expectations than the rank and file. However, meeting the expectations of inclusion by some stakeholders may trigger tensions with others (Ostrower & Stone, 2015). As inclusion is intricately interrelated with and constituted through exclusion mechanisms (Alexander, 2006), we need to raise the question of how different combinations and expectations of the stakeholders who make up the “constituency” of a CSO (Wijkström & Reuter, forthcoming) impact, and/or are impacted by, the organization’s activities in different ways.
The relationship between a CSO and its constituency is not static but evolves continuously over time in a complex manner. Different stakeholder or constituent categories become relatively more or less significant for the organization at different points in its lifespan, but also in response to unexpected developments in its institutional environment (e.g., Einarsson, 2012). The messiness of tensions, conflicts, competition, but also understanding and alliances between stakeholder categories or groups are a reality that all CSOs strive to handle in various ways.
The point of departure of this sub-theme is the realization that how a CSO develops, operates and evolves is a matter of the relationships with its constituency. However, we need to understand better how and to what extent the constituency of a CSO has impact on its activities, and how these activities continuously create, maintain and reproduce concurrent inclusion and exclusion mechanisms that affect the inclusiveness of contemporary societies.
One promising area of research for understanding how the structuration of CSOs’ relationship to their constituencies is regulation. In particular, recent development in regulatory governance literature highlighted the importance of regulatory intermediaries (Abbott et al., 2017). Research shows how those actors, who present themselves as spokesperson for the civil society, have a significant impact on regulation, and therefore on the structuration of civil society itself (see, for instance, Florman et al., 2016). Regulatory intermediaries can be seen as CSOs who claim to voice civil society’s concerns and to defend its best interest in processes of regulation. However, recent work shows how the relationship between regulatory intermediaries and their constituencies is complex ambiguous, sometimes problematic, and needs to be explored further (Brès et al., 2019).
Thus, in this sub-theme, we welcome empirical and theoretical contributions that highlight and explore the complexity of motives, meanings and mechanisms of the messy relationships between CSOs and their constituencies. In particular, we welcome papers addressing the following issues:
The complex processes and mechanisms through which certain stakeholder groups or categories over time become more important to a CSO, and others lose their relative importance for the organization; the causes and organizational consequences of such transformations; as well as the means (discursive and material tools, practices, etc.) through CSO–stakeholder relationships are maintained and cultivated – but also disrupted or disturbed. Of relevance here are also the roles played by conflicting perceptions of inclusiveness well as by the interplay of trust and distrust (cf. Reuter et al., 2013), in the processes through which relationships between stakeholders and CSOs are negotiated, reproduced and discontinued (Egholm, 2019).
The contradictions and paradoxes inherent to these relationships. This includes topics relating, for example, to  the increasingly hybrid nature of many CSOs (Brandsen et al., 2005; Donnelly-Cox, 2015);  the different institutional logics (Battilana & Dorado, 2010; Lallemand-Stempak, 2017) that in many cases govern the relationships between CSOs and different stakeholder groups; and  the ways in which CSO constituencies affect the creation, maintenance and development of concurrent inclusion and exclusion mechanisms.
Different forms and manifestations of power which are crucial to the dynamic of the relationships between CSOs and stakeholders. How do various types of power affect the relationship? This issue has often been framed as “power-over” potentially leading to mission drift (Egholm et al., 2019). Yet, there is also a relational, processual and productive perspective on power whereby it is no longer viewed as a thing that is possessed to impose one’s will, but a phenomenon that is co-developed within the confines of creative relations (Follett, 1925/2003).
The broader effects of CSOs’ relationships to their constituencies on regulation and society. An abundant literature documents how CSOs are involved in the definition of society through regulation (King & Pearce, 2010; Abbott & Snidal, 2009). However, since CSOs tend to bypass traditional governmental representation systems, it becomes important to understand better CSO’s relation to their constituencies. How CSOs mediate between their constituents and political authorities? How do they get their mandate? When can they be considered legitimate?
By looking for patterns and commonalities in the results rendered by a variety of approaches to this topic, we hope to stimulate cross-disciplinary reflections and learning, and to help advance the theoretical and methodological conversation on how CSO constituencies affect the creation, maintenance and reproduction of concurrent mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.
- Abbott, K., & Snidal, D. (2009): “The governance triangle: Regulatory standards institutions and the shadow of the state.” In: W. Mattli & N. Woods (eds.): The Politics of Global Regulation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 44–88.
- Abbott, K.W., Levi-Faur, D., & Snidal, D. (2017): “Regulatory intermediaries in the age of governance (special issue).” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1).
- Alexander, J. (2006): The Civil Sphere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010): “Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations.” Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), 1419–1440.
- Brandsen, T., van de Donk, W., & Putters, K. (2005): “Griffins or chameleons? Hybridity as a permanent and inevitable characteristic of the third sector.” International Journal of Public Administration, 28 (9–10), 749–769.
- Brandtner, C., & Dunning, C. (2019): “Nonprofits as urban infrastructure.” In: W.W. Powell & P. Bromley (eds.): The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 271–291.
- Brès, L., Mena, S., & Salles-Djelic, M.-L. (2019): “Exploring the formal and informal roles of regulatory intermediaries in transnational multistakeholder regulation.” Regulation & Governance, 13 (2), 127–140.
- Donnelly-Cox, G. (2015): “Civil society governance. Hybridization within the third sector and social entreprise domains.” In: J.-L. Laville, D. Young & P. Eynaud (eds.): Civil Society, the Third Sector and Social Enterprise: Governance and Democracy. London: Routledge, 52–66.
- Egholm, L. (2019): “Complicated translations.” In: J. Alexander, A. Voyer & A. Lund (eds.): Civil Sphere and the Nordic Countries. Cambridge: Polity Press, 64–94.
- Egholm, L., Heyse, L., & Mourey, D. (2019): “Civil society organizations: The site of legitimizing the common good – a literature review.” VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 31 (1), 1–18.
- Florman, M., Klingler-Vidra, R., & Facada, M.J. (2016): “A critical evaluation of social impact assessment methodologies and a call to measure economic and social impact holistically through the External Rate of Return platform.” Working paper.
- Follett, M.P. (1925/2003): “Power.” In: H.C. Metcalf & L. Urwick (eds.): Dynamic Administration. The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett. London: Routledge, 95–116.
- King, B.G., & Pearce, N.A. (2010): “The contentiousness of markets: politics, social movements, and institutional change in markets.” Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 249–267.
- Krashinsky, M. (1997): “Stakeholder theories of the nonprofit sector. One cut at the economic literature.” VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 8 (2), 149–161.
- Lallemand-Stempak, N. (2017): “Rethinking hybrids’ challenges: The case of French mutual insurance companies.” M@ n@ gement, 20 (4), 336–367.
- Marwell, N.P., & Morrissey, S.L. (2021): “Organizations and the production of urban poverty.” Annual Review of Sociology, 46, 233–250.
- Reuter, M., Wijkström, F., & Kristensson Uggla, B. (eds.) (2013): Trust and Organizations: Confidence Across Borders. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Sharkey, P. (2018): Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
- Wijkström, F., & Reuter, M. (forthcoming): “Stakeholders, constituents, citizens and beneficiaries.” In: M. Meyer, G. Donnelly-Cox & F. Wijkström (eds.): The Research Handbook of Nonprofit Governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.