The Swiss Civil Society Sector in a Comparative Perspective

Helmig, Bernd ; Gmür, Markus ; Bärlocher, Christoph ; Schnurbein, Georg von ; Degen, Bernard ; Nollert, Michael ; Budowski, Monica ; Sokolowski, Wojciech ; Salamon, Lester M.

Document Type: Book
Year of publication: 2011
The title of a journal, publication series: VMI research series
Volume: 6
Place of publication: Fribourg
Publishing house: Univ., Inst. for Research on Management of Associations, Foundations and Cooperatives (VMI)
ISBN: 3-909437-29-X
Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > ABWL, Public & Non Profit Management (Helmig)
Subject: 330 Economics
Abstract: Switzerland has a strong nonprofit sector, with a long historical tradition and of high importance to the Swiss society. Elements such as independence, individual responsibility and self-help are social cornerstones which are deeply rooted in the mind of the Swiss population and have thus shaped Switzerland‟s entire social system. Over the centuries, these factors have led to the development of a large and significant civil society sector alongside the state (Helmig et al., 2009). The term “civil society sector” encompasses all nonprofit organizations (NPOs) existing between state and private firms, which are, in principle, sustained by private parties and do not pursue profit oriented goals (Etzioni, 1973; Levitt, 1973). Therefore, the civil society sector (or third sector) is best described as a complement to the two social constructs “state” and “economy”. NPOs point at the weaknesses in both state and economy, that consist of strong tendencies to rigid bureaucracy and the exclusive focus on profit maximization, respectively (Hansmann, 1980; Weisbrod, 1988). Meanwhile, in their way of functioning, they try to combine the strengths of the state and economy, which could be subsumed under predictability and public control on one side, and under flexibility and efficiency on the other (Seibel, 1990). To date, only a few details about the exact contribution of the NPOs to the total economic output of Switzerland are known. To some extent, this can be explained by the heterogeneous structure of the NPOs that constitute the Swiss civil society. This heterogeneous structure is visible not only in the difference in sheer size between large economic associations and small environmentalist groups, but also in the large scope of activities NPOs conduct, ranging from sports to advocacy to humanitarian aid abroad (Lichtsteiner et al., 2008). Because of this heterogeneity the civil society sector is seldom considered a separate sector as such. This working paper aims at narrowing down the term civil society sector in quantitative and qualitative terms, especially by discriminating between NPOs and organizations of the for-profit economic sector. The following chapter provides detail on the project‟s objectives, the approach to gathering and analyzing data, and the way in which NPOs have been defined for the purpose of this project. As a basis for this work, we used the guidelines of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project (CNP) that has been dealing with the comparative study of this sector since the early 1990s. The research project sought to document the Swiss NPOs quantitatively, following the methodological guidelines spelled out in the United Nations Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts (United Nations, 2003) and to compare the Swiss findings to those from other countries surveyed by the CNP. It also seeks to describe the Swiss nonprofit sector qualitatively by putting this set of institutions into historical and political context. As a result the study provides the first comprehensive empirical overview of the nonprofit sector in Switzerland enabling the systematic comparison of the Swiss results to those from other countries. These major empirical findings about the scope and scale of Switzerland‟s civil society sector will be summarized in Chapter 2. Furthermore this chapter examines the comparisons of the Swiss findings to those of the over 40 countries on which comparable data is available. Introduction IV Chapter 3 draws the key historical factors that shaped the development of NPOs in Switzerland. Chapter 4 addresses the key issues the sector is presently confronted with, particularly in terms of the impact of government policy. Finally, Chapter 5 discusses some conclusions from the findings presented here and outlines their implications for public policy, NPOs, and research.

Dieser Eintrag ist Teil der Universitätsbibliographie.

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