University of Tasmania
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Public sector grants : an analysis of complexity in modern public administration

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:24 authored by Georgelas, PJ
This thesis explores the dependency between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government funding in the form of grants. It utilizes a case study approach and an interpretive analysis of NGO operations based on a theoretical framework that operates at the intersection of three literature domains: systems theory, community sector, and public administration. Because of the gaps in our theoretical understanding of NGO operations, a parsimonious scaffolding built by system dynamics will help illustrate the multiple frames which the stakeholders perceive they operate under, the patterned behaviour inherent in the grants system, and the complexity issues involved in such a system. In the past three decades, the number ofNGOs has increased dramatically. Internationally operating NGOs now number about 40,000 (Leverty, 2014: para. 5). As of 2009, Australia had approximately 700,000 NGOs; in 2006/7, Australia's top 41,000 nonprofits employed 890,000 people or 8.6% of employed Australians according to Lyons (2009: 1-2). As of 2008, Russia had about 277,000 ( although this figure is a decrease from a high of 650,000 in the early years of President Putin's first term) according to Rodriguez (2008: para. 5). As of 2012, the United States has an estimated 1.5 million NGOs operating in that country (U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, 2012: 2). As of2009 (the last year NGOs were accounted for there), India had around 3.3 million, which is \one NGO for less than 400 Indians\" according to Shukla (2010: para. 1). Although NGOs have a variety of fundraising sources (e.g. canvassing/face-to-face solicitation media advertisement mail-outs membership merchandise sales online donations special events private funding through investments and corporate grants grants from trusts and foundations etc.) it is government funding through grants that in general is their major source of considerable funds. Prior research into NGOs has been rather limited and has generally focused on their legal status societal role and funding sources and to a lesser extent on the applicability of some organisational theories in a nonprofit environment. However it is the contention of this research effort that these organizations and the systems they are imbedded in have evolved into such complex entities that existing theoretical models which tend to view these entities under a single paradigmatic lens are no longer sufficient. These models lack explanatory power in their ability to explain not only the workings of the entities but also the unintended consequences of their operations. This study attempts to investigate these unintended consequences brought about by complexity and to highlight them through a systems theory framework as a result of exploratory case study research. This investigation is framed by the following overarching research question: Research Topic: How do government grant recipients in Tasmania manage the complexity of the public sector grants system? and the following specific research questions: Research Question One: Are there any system archetypes noticeable in the public sector grants system? Research Question Two: Is the complexity of the public sector grants system increasing and if so why? This study was primarily informed by systems theory and utilized various theories surrounding the issue of complexity to illustrate key issues and themes. NVivo a qualitative data analysis software program was used to undertake an analysis of interviews with key NGO personnel regarding their perspectives on funding and operations. This study identifies several \"systems archetypes\" of unintended consequences in the Tasmanian public sector grants system due to the zero-sum nature of government grants funding and attempts to display them in a systems model. This study's findings call for a synthesis of the existing literature and the use of a multiple theoretical lens to cast further light into the complex problem of public policy allocations and the wider issue of social well-being. It also points out adjunct areas ripe for future research which include: resource allocation under scarce conditions complex problems and multi-optimal decision making interactional complexity and system \"fragility\" funding management in relation to organisational complexity the social management of public attention in regard to complex problems and social well-being."


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