Sustaining a Relationship : Insights from Canada on Linking the Government and Third Sector (Working Paper 1)

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Brock, Kathy L.
Canada , Government , Third Sector , Accountability , Autonomy
The embedding of third sector organisations in the policy world is fraught with tensions. Accountability and autonomy become oppositional forces causing an uneasy relationship. Government agencies are concerned that their equity and efficiency goals and objectives be met when they enter partnerships with the third sector for the delivery of programs and services. Third sector agencies question the impact of accountability mechanisms on their independence and identities. Even if the relationship between government and third sector agencies seems to be based on cooperation, concerns about cooptation (for nonprofits) and capturing (for governments) may linger calling the legitimacy of the partnership into question. Two means of improving the relationship between the governing and third sectors have been proposed recently in Canada by the Panel on Accountability and Governance in the Voluntary Sector (PAGVS) and the Joint Tables sponsored by the Voluntary Sector Task Force (VSTF). The two endeavours represent a historic undertaking in Canada aimed at improving and facilitating the relationship between the federal government and the nonprofit sector. The reports borrow on other country models but offer new insights into mediating the relationship, including new models for a regulatory body and a charity compact for Canada. Do these recommendations adequately address concerns of autonomy, accountability and cooptation or capturing? The Canadian reports do offer new insights into resolving the four tensions inherent in partnerships between the governing and third sector but also raise important questions about the nature of these relationships and the evolution of democracy within the Canadian political system.
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