Mapping the Nonprofit World. The Global Comparative Project


Dr. Ulla Pape


The opening plenary of the ISTR Conference is devoted to the memory of Lester M Salamon and his impact on comparative third sector research. Helmut K Anheier of Hertie School of Governance and Luskin School of Public Affairs UCLA reflected upon the development of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project (CNP) and formulated a number of questions for the future of comparative third sector research. The CNP was the first comparative study on the scope, structure, financing, and role of the nonprofit sector in the world.

The project started in the 1990s and was possible to the momentum of support and interest in the nonprofit sector. In his key note ‘Mapping the Nonprofit. The Global Comparative Project’, Helmut K Anheier highlighted the accomplishments of the CNP which created a broad network of researcher and successfully put the nonprofit sector on the international research agenda. The groundbreaking research started with a simple, but intriguing research question: ‘What is the capacity of the nonprofit sector to contribute to social development when public capacities are limited, and governments increasingly unsure about their roles?’ Anheier emphasised that the CNP contributed in promoting comparative nonprofit sector worldwide, but also suffered from a number of conceptual and methodological shortcoming. At present, researchers observe that comparative nonprofit sector research has lost part of its momentum as compared to thirty years ago. Anheier therefore suggested to critically discuss the project to identify new areas of comparative nonprofit research for the future.

Following the keynote, former collaborators of the CNP reflected on specific aspects of the project. Edith Archambault of the Sorbonne explained the development of the definition and the classification of third sector organisations and the efforts for statistically describing the nonprofit sector in France. Naoto Yamauchi of the Japan Institute for Public Policy Studies turned the attention to the development of nonprofit organisations in Asian countries. Jacob Mati of the University of Witwatersrand explained how the CNP has shaped research on nonprofit organisations in South Africa. Dennis Young of Georgia State University discussed the CNP and the social origins theory as a model for understanding the nonprofit sector in different country settings. Joel Fleischman of Duke University highlighted the Lester Salamon’s academic and public policy career and emphasised the enduring research legacy of the CNP. The opening plenary was concluded by the presentation of a new book on civil society, published in honor of Helmut K Anheier.

Dr. Ulla Pape Otto, Suhr Institute of Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin

Tagged in: #ISTR2022

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