Know Me Before You Speak for Me: Substantive Public Representation Among Nonprofits

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Publication Title

Public Performance & Management Review


Nonprofit and public administration scholars have increasingly turned attention to the wide variety of channels by which nonprofit organizations may influence public policy, raising critical questions about nonprofit representation. While recent years have brought important work about the extent to which nonprofits are perceived as symbolic representatives of their clients, scholars repeatedly note substantive representation remains understudied. This article seeks to address that gap by offering a conceptual framework of potential nonprofit substantive representation mechanisms. Two categories of mechanisms emerged from a scan of scholarly and practitioner literature—client engagement and client assessment, while an exploratory case study of one nonprofit’s explicit endeavor to improve substantive representation surfaced a third category—immersion. We offer this framework as a useful first step in organizing and presenting mechanisms for consideration, and to encourage future exploration and testing of mechanisms by which nonprofits may come to substantively understand those whom they represent.

Original Citation

Kristi Andrasik & Joseph W. Mead (2018) Know Me Before You Speak for Me: Substantive Public Representation Among Nonprofits, Public Performance & Management Review, DOI: 10.1080/15309576.2018.1486212