Is Professionalization Threat or Help for NPOs Tackling Social Exclusion?

Abstract: 
The purpose of this paper is to investigate how professionalization of non-profit organizations (NPOs) affects participatory service provision and decision-making, one of the most important characteristics of NPOs, and to suggest how NPOs reconcile a democratic approach and a professional approach for social inclusion of marginalized people. To grasp the influence of professionalization on NPOs more appropriately, this paper focuses on not only the existence of professionals but also the degree of expert knowledge and experience which professionals have and look into their effects on participatory service provision and decision-making of NPOs by researching Japanese NPOs which provide care service for challenged children, one of the most vulnerable and excluded groups of people in the world. As a result of a questionnaire survey and interviews, it is found that NPOs which hire professionals who have deep expert knowledge and experience involve more parents of challenged children in their decision-making and implementation processes as compared to NPOs which do not hire such professionals. On the basis of the results of the interviews, this paper suggests that offering a role model and showing clear products of participatory service provision and decision-making to parents is crucial for professionalized NPOs to contribute to building inclusive society.
Main Article: 

Introduction

To achieve a public purpose, a government uses contract, not provide service directly, a common phenomenon throughout the world, especially in social and welfare services. NPOs are not immune to this change on the way to provide service. Rather, expansion of government contract brings both a variety of opportunities and pressures for NPOs to discharge their responsibilities. With the volume contract, NPOs could secure a source of revenue and broaden a sphere of their activities; on the other hand, they are forced to improve their internal management, to demonstrate accountability and to hire more specially trained professionals, not to depend on volunteers to pursue government-funded service.

Needless to say, “voluntarism” is one of the necessaries for NPO (Anheier, 2005; Salamon et al., 2003) and it is a source of the social capital theory that participation in non-profit activities is helpful to foster norms of reciprocity, trust and social networks which are essentials for building “inclusive society” that all people can live at ease (Gittell and Vidal, 1998; Halpern, 2005; Putnam, 1993, 2000; Uslaner, 2001). Therefore, many researchers are concerned about the influence of “professionalization” that NPOs shift the way of providing service from amateur procedure to technical procedure (Abramson and McCarthy, 2002). For example, McKnight (1995) suggests that over-professionals in NPOs could prevent people from cooperating with each other to improve the quality of life by regarding satisfaction of human basic needs as the problem that only professionals can deal with. Hulgard and Spear (2006) and Selle (1999) also suggest that professionalization could hinder NPOs taking participatory service provision and decision-making and functioning as “schools of participation and active citizenship,” a crucial identity of NPOs (see Prodi, 2002). The organizational theory that the more the organizations are formalized and specialized, the more they attach importance to efficiency and streamlining administrative work (Arrow, 1974; Weber, 1978; Williamson, 1975) supports the above statements, too.

On the other hand, Laville (2003) indicates that professionalization could be useful for NPOs to contribute to building inclusive society because professionals may easily grasp and fulfill a variety of demands of the people who have more serious mental and physical problems. Schlesinger et al. (1987) also suggest that professionalization is helpful for NPOs to maintain their voluntarism and promote all the people to participate in social activities as professionals have interest in using their professional knowledge and experience to provide more manageable life for the people, not winning a competition in the market.

Is professionalization really a threat or help for NPOs which combat social exclusion? In this paper, through the research on Japanese NPOs which provide care service for challenged children, this paper will try to show the effects of professionalization on NPOs and discuss ways of balancing a participative democratic and professional approach so that NPOs could contribute to building an inclusive society.

Professionalization of Japanese NPOs in Care Service for Challenged Children

The models on welfare service provision vary among countries. For example, in the US, referred to as the “Third Party Government,” receiving government financial support, NPOs traditionally provide service, not by the government itself (Salamon, 1995). In care service for children in France and the UK, residential service in Italy and care service for the challenged children in Spain, NPOs dominate the service provision historically (Ascoli and Ranci, 2002).

In Japan, the principle that the government gives aid to disadvantaged people had been applied to all welfare service for a long time. Under this principle, in the case of care service for the challenged children, they did not have the right to select their service provider and receive necessary support on the basis of their physical and mental conditions until 2003. Instead, the municipal govern-ments had made the decision on everything from whether the individual challenged is eligible for getting support, if so, what kind of support should be given to which service providers who provide support for them at the discretion of the governments. Besides, the governments had authorized only organizations which had a legal form of the “social welfare juridical organization,” one of the legal forms for non-profit activities, to provide service and ordered organizations to have the legal form if they want to get government financial support for their service provision. This way of providing service had many serious problems. First of all, the challenged individual would not achieve full participation of the society because of its inability to decide on the necessary support for them. Secondly, the service providers will not have the motivation to improve the quality of service because of the lack of competition among the service providers.

In Japan, there are many legal forms for non-profit activities such as the social welfare juridical organization, the educational organization, the religious organization, the corporate juridical organization and the foundation and so on. Although they have some privileges which include tax relief and tax deductible status for donation, their activities are controlled by governments and regarded as supplements of government service. Furthermore, it is not easy for the ordinary people to get these legal forms because there are no criteria whether an organization can get these legal forms and the requirement of big funding. In the case of getting the legal form of the social welfare juridical organization, an organization has to have property when it is going to provide facility service such as a nursing home, and more than about $1.2 million (100million Japanese Yen[i]) as asset if it is not going to provide facility service. Although NPOs, which were mainly established by parents of the challenged children, had provided vocational training and educational support for the challenged, they did not have any legal form for their non-profit activities because of the financial problem until 1997. Thanks to the establishment of the Law to Promote Specified Non-profit Activities in 1998, they were facilitated to have a legal form for their non-profit activities, the nonprofit corporation, without property and an asset[ii]; however, governments did not authorize organizations except those having the legal form of the social welfare juridical organization to pursue government-funded service. Therefore, regardless of whether the NPOs have the legal form or not, they were still regarded as “unlawful service provider” and could not get government financial support even if they tackled social exclusion of the challenged children at par with social welfare juridical organizations. In 2003, a new institution came into existence which the challenged children could select as a service provider by themselves; however, the problem about what kind of organizations respond to the increase in mentally challenged children and those who want to use home care under severe financial conditions of the governments had been still left out.

The Act on Services and Supports for the Challenged enacted in 2005 brings a dramatic change for service provision to the challenged. For example, in order to receive support from a service provider of their own choice, the challenged have to pay ten percent of the fees for service, not fully dependent on the government financial aid. The service providers could provide service for the challenged who have different mental and physical problems in one facility[iii]. Furthermore, as one of the most remarkable changes, organizations except for social welfare juridical organizations are permitted to provide day service[iv]. In accordance with this deregulation, in the case of care service for challenged children, NPOs are required to hire professionals on the basis of the following:

  • Hiring at least three specially trained people such as a social worker, care worker and nursery school teacher per fifteen children
  • Hiring more than one of the above people as a full time worker
  • In addition to the above people, hiring more than one person as a full time chief managing service officer

The qualification for a chief managing service officer is set as follows:

1.Experience in providing care service for challenged children of more than five years and in drawing up a support plan for individual challenged children for more than one year.

or

Experience in counseling service for challenged children as a member of staff of projects of municipal governments of more than five years and in drawing up a support plan for individual challenged children for more than one year.

2.Taking courses on care for the challenged and management of service which prefectural governments hold

The provision on looking after children of a two-income family that some care service provider for challenged children have implemented is due to the lack of afterschool-care centers[v], as they are required to follow the guideline each municipal government makes, not the central government.

Thus, the government sets the number of required professionals and the qualification for a chief managing service officer to implement care service for challenged children as national service; however, it does not describe the way of drawing up a support plan for individual challenged children and carry it out and necessary materials, facilities and timetable concretely in the law. Therefore, whether the care service providers can contribute to realizing social inclusion of the challenged children depends on their organizational capacity.

Multiple Approaches to Clarify Influence of Professionalization on NPOs

Literature such as James (1984, 1986), Lee and Weisbrod (1977) and Weisbrod (1975) suggest that attaching importance to meeting diverse demands of people, not to achieving efficiency and economy, is one of the characteristics of NPOs. Furthermore, Bradley and Walker (1998) and Nakagawa (2009) suggest that sharing information with service users and promoting them to participate in decision-making and implementation processes is a necessary condition for NPOs to continue to implement tailor-made service provision. Considering these discussions, it was investigated how professionalization affects such participatory service provision and decision-making through the research of Japanese NPOs that engage in care service for the challenged children due to the following reasons.

Firstly, as it has been explained in the former section, professionalization of NPOs is an inevitable phenomenon in care service for challenged children to make the government contract and carry it out as government-funded service. Secondly, as Borzaga and Defourny (2001), Nyssens (2006) and Pierson (2002) suggest, despite the capital, labor force and information flow globally, even now challenged children are highly excluded from the society and do not have much choice about their own future due to the lack of adequate opportunities and support for education, work and social relationships. For example, in Japan, the number of prefectures which have more than one school for the blind is only 13 (Ministry of Education, 2006). Therefore, these children are often forced to go to distant schools from their hometowns and live in dormitories in unfamiliar towns. In addition, only 7% of the 7 million challenged are able to find jobs in the mainstream labor market after graduation (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 2003), they first of all suffer layoff when the economic crisis occurs. According to the survey which was conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2009, the number of dismissals of the challenged was more than 200 in two months after November, 2008. Thirdly, reconciliation between a civil attitude and a professional attitude is important for NPOs to promote challenged children to participate in society smoothly. For instance, in order to avoid isolation and realize social inclusion of children who suffer pervasive developmental disorder, NPOs need to not only advocate understanding on such children to the public on the basis of civil mind but also to instruct such children as how to express their thoughts and what is important to get along with others in terms of expertise[vi]. By looking into the NPOs that engage in care service for the challenged children, one of the most vulnerable and excluded groups of people in the current world, transferable effective methods could be shown about how NPOs balance a civil approach and a professional approach to realize social inclusion of marginalized people.

Many previous researches deal with how the existence of professionals affects the way NPOs provide service through quantitative methods or qualitative methods. For example, Salamon (1995) investigates whether the NPOs with more professionals do not have interest in service for the poor. As a result of a survey of 1,474 NPOs, Salamon found that only 19% of the NPOs which have less than one professional staff per volunteer mainly provide service for the poor, whereas about 30% of the NPOs that have more than 100 professional staff per volunteer provide service for them. Schlesinger (1998) looks into how the existence of professionals affects the behavior of NPOs in competition with the for-profit organizations in the field of health care in the US. Through the survey, Schlesinger shows that as competition increases in the market, professionals use their power to keep NPOs from deviating from their mission. Smith and Lipsky (1993) suggest that professionals force NPOs to transform culture and thought of NPOs as a representative of the community, and take a hierarchical counselor-client relationship through an individual case.

In order to grasp the effects of professionalization more appropriately, this paper focuses on not only the existence of professionals but also the degree of expert knowledge and experience which professionals have and investigate their effects on participatory service provision and decision-making of NPOs by a questionnaire survey and interviews. In the questionnaire survey, questionnaire sheets were sent to 200 NPOs that provide care service for challenged children, on the basis of random sampling methods from May to July 2008. 121 valid responses were obtained. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with CEOs, secretary-generals and staff members of some NPOs from April 2008 to February 2009. The result of the interviews has provided the idea for balancing a participatory democratic approach and a professional approach towards the social inclusion of challenged children.

Results

Influence of Professionals on a Way of Providing NPOs’ Service

The questionnaire survey aimed at grasping an overall picture on effects of professionals on participatory service provision and decision-making of NPOs. Concretely, an attempt is made to obtain “answers” to the following which are set on the basis of discussions in the previous literature in the “Introduction” of this paper through an analysis of the questionnaire survey.

  • The more profess-ionals NPOs have, the less the number of volunteers
  • The more professionals per volunteer NPOs have, the more number of challenged children they have
  • The more professionals per volunteer NPOs have, the less they promote talents of challenged children to participate in their decision-making and implementation processes

The first question is set to check whether professionalization means abandonment and denial of voluntarism of NPOs. The second and third questions are set to check whether the more NPOs are professionalized, the more they attach importance to efficiency and economy, not responding to diverse demands of individual children and parents carefully. Before moving on to the introduction of answers to these questions, the staffing pattern of the target NPOs is presented. As Table 1 indicates, many NPOs depend on not only full time staff but also part time staff for their service provision. The reason why many NPOs hire some staff as part time workers, not full time workers is that they do not have enough money to provide high wages to all the staff as full time workers because it is only after three years since they can receive government funding as lawful service provider.

Table 1: Staffing Pattern of Target NPOs

Full Time Staff Part Time Staff Size Total
0-4 5-9 10-19 20 and over
1-4 54 30 16 0 100
5-9 44 29 24 3 100
10-19 50 0 10 40 100
20 and over 0 0 50 50 100

Note: Sample size=120. (The figures are in percentage)

Looking into the relation between the number of professionals and that of volunteers, it was found that hiring professionals does not cause elimination of volunteers in NPOs contrary to concerns which are suggested in previous literature. Rather, as Table 2 indicates, the more NPOs have professionals, the more they provide an opportunity to participate in their activities as a volunteer for people.

Table 2: Relationship between the number of professionals and that of volunteers

Professional Size Volunteer Size Total
None 1-4 5-9 10-19 20 & over
1-4 45 55 0 0 0 100
5-9 44 36 8 12 0 100
10-19 39 33 19 3 6 100
20 and over 36 14 14 14 22 100

Notes: (1) Professional size includes both the number of full time workers and that of part time workers. (2) Sample size=120. (3) Chi square =23.875, Level of significance =0.05, P-value=0.0212. (The figures are in percentage)

In order to examine the relationship between professionalization and attaching importance to efficiency and economy in service provision of NPOs, the target NPOs have been classified by the degree of professionalization on the basis of the results as shown in Table 2.

  • Low professionalized NPOs
  • NPOs have more volunteers than professionals or the number of volunteers and that of professionals is the same
  • Medium professionalized NPOs
  • NPOs have more professionals than volunteers
  • High professionalized NPOs
  • NPOs do not have volunteers but have professionals

According to this classification, it is looked into whether the more NPOs are professionalized, the more they receive challenged children to attach importance to earning more money and getting a lot of government subsidies[vii], not to providing tailor-made service on the basis of a civil mind. As a result of the analysis, it cannot be confirmed that the more NPOs are professionalized, the more they have challenged children to provide support to. Rather, low professionalized NPOs seem to have more children to take care of as compared with high professionalized NPOs. From the result, at least, professionalization does not mean that NPOs favor efficiency and economy, not taking care of individual children properly.

Table 3 Relationship between degree of professionalization and the number of challenged children who receive care in NPOs

Degree of Professionalization Number of children Total
1-9 10-29 30-49 50-99 100 & over
Low 5 33 33 29 0 100
Medium 5 38 20 24 13 100
High 6 42 23 23 6 100

Notes: (1) Sample size=114. .(The figures are in percentage)(2) Chi square=5.2262, Level of significance=0.05, P-value=0.7331

In the analysis of a relationship between the degree of professionalization and participatory service provision and decision-making, a remarkable finding emerged. As shown in Table 4, as compared to low professionalized NPOs, high professionalized NPOs involved parents of challenged children in their decision-making and implementation processes.

Table 4: Relationship between degree of professionalization and whether NPOs involve parents in their decision-making and implementation processes

Degree of Profession-alization parents participation in decision-making and implementation
Yes No Total
Low 58 42 100
Medium 84 16 100
High 80 20 100

Notes: (1) Sample size= 113. (The figures are in percentage) (2) Chi square=6.1982, Level of significance=0.05, P-value=0.0451.

Based on the above results, upon investigation of the Japanese NPOs in care service for challenged children, it can be said that hiring more professionals is not a threat to them. Rather, many professionals hired could be of help to the NPOs in contributing to build an inclusive society since it could broaden the sphere that people understand challenged children well and act for protecting their human rights by providing an opportunity to participate in their activities as volunteers and meet the diverse demands of individual challenged children and parents properly.

Why can not low professionalized NPOs involve parents of challenged children in their decision-making and implementation processes in spite of many people opting to be volunteers? It can be assumed that they are occupied in providing care for challenged children and can not afford to offer opportunities to parents to participate in their decision-making and implementation processes due to the lack of expertise on supporting the challenged children. Furthermore, they might have challenged children beyond their capacity so that they can avail more government subsidies and fees for services. Consequently, they have not been able to utilize the voluntary spirit for inclusive society through their service.

Influence of Degree of Expert Knowledge and Experience which Professionals have on the Way NPOs Provide Service

The results of the interviews suggest that NPOs which are composed of professionals with deep expert knowledge and experience carry out more participatory service provision and decision-making as compared to those NPOs with professionals who have shallow expert knowledge and experience. For example, in Tree of Grape, established by two women engaged in care service for challenged children, especially, those suffering from pervasive developmental disorders for more than 20 years as a social worker and a mother of such children, parents talk about what they can and should do for these children with other parents and staff and play with and take care of other children. In Tree of Dream, in the Okhotsk Area, which has been providing care service for challenged children on the basis of Applied Behavioral Analysis, one of the methods for caring for challenged children who suffer from autism, parents can exchange ideas with the staff and make decisions about how to support the challenged children. In addition, not only parents but local residents also play with and look after the challenged children.

Why do they involve parents in their decision-making and implementation processes? One of the reasons, they say, is that they want to cultivate a spirit of cooperation to realize an inclusive society by taking the participatory service provision and decision-making processes. Another reason is that they strongly think that creating an opportunity for the challenged children to interact with other people apart from their own parents promotes challenged children to participate in the society with ease, because there are diverse people in the society. Therefore, while NPOs read thoughts and the meaning of behavior of each challenged children and make an individual support plan utilizing their professional knowledge and experience, they call for the participation of the parents concerned in their decision-making and implementation processes towards an inclusive society.

How about NPOs which are composed of professionals who have shallow expert knowledge and experience? In the case of Small House, another NPO, although the women have the qualifications both as social workers and nursery school teachers, they have nothing to do with the challenged children before launching care service for them. They say that they can not afford to involve parents in their decision-making and implementation processes since they are occupied in understanding the contents of the law. They also say that parents do not see other challenged children in Small House; therefore, they do not ponder about what they should do for all the challenged children to be adjusted in the society. Step by Step is another service provider that teaches the method of baking bread to the challenged children initially but began to provide care service for the challenged children for stable income. A male nursery school teacher of Step by Step says that they are pressed with interpreting the contents of the institutions and catching up on them; therefore, they can not attend to the involvement of parents in their decision-making and implementation processes. Due to the lack of deep professional knowledge and experience, it is difficult for them to draw up a support plan and give expert advice to parents to promote social inclusion of the challenged children. As a result, many parents only ask Step by Step to keep their own children and reluctant to accept their own children as essential and worthy children in the society. Therefore, according to the nursery school teacher, it is unfortunate that certain challenged children face isolation in both the elementary school and the home.

Discussion and Conclusion

On effects of professionalization on NPOs, there are different points of views in previous researches. Some of them are worried that the increase of professionals in NPOs prevent people from cooperating with each other to solve problems by defining satisfaction of needs of people as problems that only professionals can handle; therefore, NPOs may destroy the community, rather than building it up by professionalization. On the other hand, others regard professionalization as a useful tool for NPOs to contribute to building inclusive society since NPOs can respond to a variety of difficult mental and physical problems. Considering both the existence of professionals and degree of expert knowledge and experience which professionals have, investigation was conducted on the effects of professionalization on participatory service provision and decision-making, one of the most important characteristics of NPOs, through the questionnaire survey and interviews in order to grasp what influence professionalization brings for NPOs more appropriately.

It is found that professionalization does not hinder NPOs from embracing the participatory service provision and decision-making. Rather, NPOs which have many professionals with deep expert knowledge and experience provide an opportunity for parents to participate in their decision-making and implementation processes as compared to NPOs which do not have such professionals. Therefore, it can be said, according to the research, that professionalization helps, and is not a threat for NPOs to contribute in building inclusive society because they can not only satisfy individual diverse needs but also spread the sphere that people accept and respect all beyond the differences of mental and physical characteristics in the society.

In the final section, the consideration is made on how NPOs strike a balance between a participatory democratic approach and a professional approach in their service provision so that they can contribute to social inclusion of challenged children, because the existence of professionals who have deep expert knowledge and experience could result in the parents entrusting everything to support their challenged children to NPOs and are reluctant to participate in their decision-making and implementation processes even if NPOs offer such an opportunity. According to the results of the interviews, some NPOs admit that many parents hesitate to participate in their decision-making and implementation processes due to several reasons. Some parents cannot afford to think about other challenged children because they are concerned about their own children’s future only. Others consider that ordinary people are not helpful and only professionals can help their challenged children to adjust in the society.

How do NPOs change such parents’ mind and create the circle to solve problems relative to participation of challenged children in society by cooperation among all people? One of the solutions is that NPOs train certain parents as a role model and demonstrate them to other parents. For example, in Tree of Grape, a certain mother who plays with and takes care for other challenged children on her own initiative prompts other parents to act not only for their own children but also other challenged children because they understand well that they can be of help for bringing comfort for the challenged children through the efforts. Another solution is that NPOs show what is realized by participatory service provision and decision-making to parents clearly. Why do some NPOs, which initially provided only care service for the challenged children, launch other service related to support for vulnerable people such as providing vocational training for the challenged children and managing group homes for the elderly and the challenged? This is because they understood that they need to provide a wide range of service so that such people can live in ease, through exchanging ideas and opinions with parents of challenged children. If NPOs relate such a background to the parents of the challenged children, they will realize that their active commitment to decision-making and implementation processes in NPOs is necessary to solve problems on social exclusion of challenged children.

Performing two functions of instructing individual challenged children on how to get along with others appropriately from a professional level and of producing citizens who act to change the current social structure which causes inequality and inequity by their own initiative, by not leaving the solution to others from a civil aspect enables NPOs to contribute to building inclusive society.

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End Notes

[i] The exchange rate is $1=90 Japanese Yen.

[ii] Obtaining a legal form without property and an asset is a remarkable merit for NPOs; however, even if NPOs can get the legal form of the nonprofit corporation, they can not receive tax deductible status for themselves and donations. For example, organizations which have the legal forms of the social welfare juridical organization, the educational organization, the religious organization, the corporate juridical organization and the foundation are permitted a light tax rate for profit-making projects (22%); on the other hand, NPOs which have the legal form of the nonprofit corporation are imposed same tax rate for profit-making projects as for-profit organization (30%) unless their revenue is less than about $89,000 (8million Japanese Yen). Nakagawa (2009) shows significance of taking the nonprofit corporation in such an unfavorable institutional condition.

[iii] According to a certain NPO service provider, some challenged children are confused about that all challenged children who have different mental and physical problems assemble in one facility and suffer from stress disease. The problem about how to respond to increase of challenged children, especially, children who suffer pervasive developmental disorder, has been still left.

[iv] Concerning facility service, organizations except for social welfare juridical organizations are prohibited to engage in such service.

[v] As of 2006, 680,000children use afterschool-care centers. Since more than 30% of the districts of elementary schools do not have afterschool-care centers, more than 11,000children can not use service (National Association on Afterschool, Care Center, 2006).

[vi] Although the sample size is small, Sugiyama (2002) really shows that nobody can get stable jobs through the survey to 47teenagers who suffer pervasive developmental disorder since the public do not have understanding on pervasive developmental disorder and the teenagers do not have skills on communication with others.

[vii] The governments allocate subsidies to service providers on the basis of the number of service users. That is to say, the more service providers have service users, the more they get subsidies. Therefore, it is said that a problem that some service providers reluctant to make efforts for integration of the challenged children in the mainstream labor market and society to avoid reduction of subsidies occurs.