Is Professionalization Threat or Help for NPOs Tackling Social Exclusion?

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.
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