Research Summary

Governance and Accountability in Social Sector Organizations

by Alnoor Ebrahim


This research examines governance in two types of organizations: international NGOs and socioeconomic hybrids.

First, over the past decade, many of the world's most prominent international nongovernmental organizations and networks (INGOs)  have developed new structures for operating more effectively in global environments. How have governance arrangements evolved in INGOs as they have internationalized? What kinds of organizational structures and accountability mechanisms are best suited to different global environments? This work makes use of ten case studies to shed light on the process of internationalization and its implications for governance and accountability. This work is being carried out jointly with colleagues at Harvard University's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations.

The second project examines hybrid organizations. As corporations face increasing pressure to address societal problems, and as nonprofit charities turn to market-based revenue models, we are witnessing the emergence of new hybrid organizations that seek to balance market and social welfare logics. Governing boards play a crucial role in enabling hybrids to balance their dual, and sometimes conflicting, objectives. In this conceptual work, carried out jointly with Professors Julie Battilana and Johanna Mair, we examine how hybrids' accountability differs from those of corporate and nonprofit models, and we explore mechanisms of accountability that hybrids adopt in order to maintain their hybridity.