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The French Nonprofit Sector

A Literature Review

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Laura Nirello and Lionel Prouteau

This article deals with the literature on the French nonprofit sector (NPS). A preliminary part is devoted to presenting and discussing the characteristics that shape the approaches to this sector in France. We stress the strong influence of legal categories on the sector’s definition and, in this context, the importance of the status inherited from the 1901 Act on contracts of association. This raises a problem for a more analytical approach to the sector, because the diversity of the nonprofit organizations (NPOs) regulated under this Act risks being overshadowed. In this first part, we also underline the primacy accorded in France to the concept of the social economy, which has today become the social and solidarity economy (SSE), over that of the nonprofit sector.
In the second part, the article outlines some landmarks in the history of the French NPS. French NPOs were for many years objects of suspicion, arbitrariness and repression on the part of the public authorities and this persisted until the 1901 legislation on contracts of association was enacted. However, this hostile context did not prevent the sector from having a richer existence than is sometimes admitted.
This literature review also focuses on empirical studies of the sector, placing a particular emphasis on the more recent ones. These French studies basically adopt two types of approach. The first is concerned essentially with the NPOs and focuses its attention on their economic importance, whether measured in terms of financial resources, employment, or, less frequently, added value. The second approach investigates the kinds of individual participation the sector engenders by examining the various forms it takes, such as membership of NPOs or voluntary work.
This review ends with the analysis of the challenges that NPS faces in a context characterized by the increasing constraints on public funding, changes in the nature of such funding with a substitution of contracts for subsidies, an increased competition among NPOs as well as between NPOs and for-profit enterprises. The article concludes that, despite the advances in research on the French NPS, some aspects—like formal volunteering and the role of voluntary associations—are still understudied, while others—like informal groups and informal volunteering—are almost totally ignored.
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John McNutt, Chao Guo, Lauri Goldkind and Seongho An

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are major forces shaping our current age. ICT affects many areas of human existence and influences the both human wellbeing and human evil. The nonprofit sector is already heavily involved in technology both as a way to pursue its mission and as an influential factor in the evolution of the sector. This article examines how technology affects the sector and how the sector uses technology in its work.
The article begins with a discussion of how the emerging information society will change the nonprofit sector. The sector that we know is grounded on our experience in the agrarian and industrial periods in the United States and Europe. We then explore how technology evolved in the sector. This is followed by an examination of technology and nonprofit organizational behavior. Technology changes the organizations that make use of its capacities. Next is a discussion of the types of technology that nonprofit organizations use. The final three sections deal with technology and social change, technology in nonprofit settings, and issues and trends. This article provides the reader with a current appreciation of the scholarly and professional literature on ICT in the nonprofit sector.
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David Horton Smith

Reviewed here is global research on how 13 types of Voluntary Membership Associations (MAs) have significantly or substantially had global impacts on human history, societies, and life. Such outcomes have occurred especially in the past 200+ years since the Industrial Revolution circa 1800 CE, and its accompanying Organizational Revolution. Emphasized are longer-term, historical, and societal or multinational impacts of MAs, rather than more micro-level (individual) or meso-level (organizational) outcomes. MAs are distinctively structured, with power coming from the membership, not top-down. The author has characterized MAs as the dark matter of the nonprofit/third sector, using an astrophysical metaphor. Astrophysicists have shown that most physical matter in the universe is dark in the sense of being unseen, not stars or planets.
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Lili Wang

Migration has changed the social, cultural, political, and economic landscape of many countries. Mutual aid organizations, ethic-oriented religious organizations, hometown associations, and various other types of ethnic and immigrant organizations emerged to respond to the particular needs of immigrant communities. For countries with a tradition of civic participation, integrating immigrants into civic life becomes an important issue. This article reviews the literature on ethnic/immigrant associations and minorities’ or immigrants’ voluntary participation in major developed countries that have experienced a significant increase of immigrants, particularly after the 1990s. In terms of ethnic/immigrant associations, the author reviews the historical background of research in this area, the size and scope, the formation and development, the memberships, and the financial well-being of these associations, the roles they play in helping immigrants acculturate into the host countries, and the classification of ethnic/immigrant associations. Particular attention is given to immigrants’ mutual aid organizations, ethnic cultural organizations, ethnic-oriented religious organizations, and hometown associations. The author also reviews the literature that examines the factors influencing minorities’ and immigrants’ voluntary participation, their formal and informal volunteering, as well we immigrant youth’s voluntary participation.
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Jenny Onyx and Garth Nowland-Foreman

This is the first comprehensive overview of third sector research in Australasia, prepared by leading researchers, Jenny Onyx in Australia and Garth Nowland-Foreman in Aotearoa New Zealand. It examines both the current state of knowledge of the sector and also the research infrastructure behind the sector. Part one documents the size and scope of the sector, as well as the development of the organisation ANZTSR and its journal. Part two examines relations with the state in each country, the rapid growth in funding services, but also effects of neo-liberal ideological and policy constraints. Part Three documents the current state of volunteering and philanthropy (giving) in both countries. Part Four examines the world of citizen action, building social capital within local communities, and also advocacy and political protest. The concluding Part Five examines some of the current developments in civil society, new emerging forms, and challenges for the future. 
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Edited by Holger Weiss

This book provides an analysis of the articulation and organisation of radical international solidarity by organisations that were either connected to or had been established by the Communist International (Comintern), such as the International Red Aid, the International Workers’ Relief, the League Against Imperialism, the International of Seamen and Harbour Workers and the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers. The guiding light of these organisations was a radical interpretation of international solidarity, usually in combination with concepts and visions of gender, race and class as well as anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and anti-fascism. All of these new transnational networks form a controversial part of the contemporary history of international organisations. Like the Comintern these international organisations had an ambigious character that does not fit nicely into the traditional typologies of international organisations as they were neither international governmental organisations nor international non-governmental organisations. They constituted a radical continuation of the pre-First World War Left and exemplified an attempt to implement the ideas and movements of a new type of radical international solidarity not only in Europe, but on a global scale.

Contributors are: Gleb J. Albert, Bernhard H. Bayerlein, Kasper Braskén, Fredrik Petersson, Holger Weiss.