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Policy Sciences

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 221–240 | Cite as

NGO research program: a collective action perspective

  • Erica Johnson
  • Aseem Prakash
Article

Abstract

This paper outlines a collective action approach to study nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). We contend that while political scientists and sociologists have extensively written about NGOs, they have not systematically examined fundamental collective action issues such as why and where NGOs emerge, how they function, how they are structured, and what strategies they employ to mitigate agency conflicts and ensure accountability. Instead of theorizing about NGOs as a category, NGO scholars have developed descriptive typologies relevant to study small subsets of the NGO population. In contrast, the non-profit literature, which studies broadly the same actor category, has systematically focused on fundamental questions inherent in any collective endeavor. We conclude that by employing a collective action perspective, specifically the theories of firm, NGO scholars will be able to develop explanations about NGO origin, structure, and strategy that have superior explanatory power and are generalizable across NGOs.

Keywords

NGOs Collective action 

Notes

Acknowledgment

We thank Matt Auer, Kristin Bakke, David Baron, Brenda Bushouse, Margaret Levi, Tom Lyon, Elinor Ostrom, Steve Pfaff, Gary Segura, and Oran Young for comments. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 2006 annual conference of the Midwest Political Science Association and the University of Michigan Business School.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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