Nonprofits as urban infrastructure

in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook, Third Edition

Brandtner, Christof ; Dunning, Claire

Powell, Walter W.. Directeur de publication ; Bromley, Patricia. Directeur de publication

Stanford University Press 2020 - 271-291 p.

Cities are home to a vast array of nonprofit organizations, from hospitals and universities to tenant unions and community centers. Research on nonprofit organizations, however, has concealed the urban setting of most nonprofits, instead favoring national and organizational levels of analysis. This chapter highlights not only how cities provide an important, immediate social context for nonprofits but also how nonprofits shape cities in important ways. Drawing on nonprofit and urban literatures ... across several disciplines including sociology and history, we conceptualize nonprofits as urban infrastructure and note five key roles nonprofits play in this capacity: (1) forges of civic capacity, (2) participants in urban governance, (3) conveners of network interaction, (4) anchors of belonging, and (5) builders of the physical environment. Throughout this discussion, we consider not only how the direct activities of nonprofits shape and are shaped by cities, but also the indirect reciprocal influences of each set of institutions. Causally, these relationships are complex, because cities and their urban environment constitute and evolve each other. We conclude with a research agenda that recognizes and further explores the nonprofit sector as a constitutive element of the economic, political, social, and spatial environment of cities and encourages comparative analyses of cities and neighborhoods to investigate how local nonprofit sectors undergird the city in both constructive and counterproductive ways.

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