Is community accountability being overlooked as a result of government-third sector partnering in New Zealand?

Jenny Aimers, Peter Walker


In recent years ‘third way’ style governments have sought to partner with third sector organisations in ‘joined up’ government. The neo-liberal basis for the third way model has sought to make government’s community collaborators more professional in their approach. This has been achieved by influencing third sector organisations to adopt quasi-business models of organisational practice and accountability.

While the rationale for promoting these practices has resulted from a desire to afford third sector organisations a level of social efficacy similar to that of the professions. an increasing number of researchers (Aimers & Walker, 2008; Mulgan, 2006; Barr, 2005; Craig, 2004; Walker, 2002) have argued that business or quasi-business models are not always appropriate measures of success for the work of the third sector.

We argue that with the growing emphasis on government and third sector partnerships, the relationship between the third sector and its communities is at risk of being overlooked due to the lack of insistence that such organisation should seek direction setting from local communities. One of the core characteristics of the third sector has been its embeddedness within its community. If organisations become more focused on their relationship with the state, at the expense of their community relationships, they risk overlooking a core part of their identity and purpose. We believe that community-based directional accountability provides a basis from which effective community relationships can grow.

In this article we discuss how partnering with government has put community relationships of third sector community organisations at risk and offer three models of community accountability derived from real-life examples, which such organisations could use to help retain and strengthen their community embeddedness. 


neoliberalism; third sector; community accountability; government partnerships;

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