Chapter 20 Twists and turns of the practice of accountability in the nonprofit sector: the thin line between accountancy and organizational learning
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Accountability requirements in the nonprofit sector have intensified. In this chapter, we first discuss the theoretical foundations underpinning two different governance accountability dynamics in the nonprofit sector, highlighting the risks of organizational disorders triggered by the prevalence of ‘upward’, ‘external’ and ‘functional’ forms of accountability and the difficulties of always being accountable to all stakeholders. Second, we discuss nonprofit accountability in practice, highlighting three trends: the prevalence of ‘scientific’ and ‘bureaucratic’ evaluation logics imposed by funders; the ambiguities of ‘participation’ as an accountability mechanism; and the voluntary practice of ‘blended value accounting’ by outliers in the nonprofit constellation. We argue that meeting ‘upward’ and ‘functional’ accountability requirements and applying accounting-based practices do not necessarily lead to the making of ‘accountable organizations’, i.e. nonprofit organizations developing a culture and a mindset of accountability built on mission, trust, organizational learning and creative and dialogical management of multiple accountabilities rather than on external oversight.

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