Academic Research: Sector Theory

Much of my acadmic research is focused on the differences between the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. The central motivation for this research is the idea that an enhanced understanding of the macroinstitutions in society can help us to achieve more just and efficient outcomes for the benefit of humanity. My aim is ultimately to provide important empirical contributions to 1) sector theory generally (i.e. why different sectors exist and how they differ), 2) theories of the public and nonprofit sectors specifically (i.e. why the public and nonprofit sectors are unique and important), and 3) approaches to the improvement of the public and nonprofit sectors (i.e. how to make governments and nonprofits better at fulfilling their unique roles in society).

Recent changes in the fabric of the sectors have suggested that our traditional sector theories do not adequately describe and explain emergent approaches to improving the social welfare. New trends in corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, new public management, and social enterprise have blurred the boundaries between the sectors. I have sought to describe and explain this macroinstitutional shift by conducting empirical, comparative studies that have bearing on the continuing relevance of the sector paradigm and also identify ways in which our traditional views of the sectors are no longer adequate. Among my current works in progress are papers that both critique the current state of sector theory and contribute novel insights to sector theory that may better explain the phenomena we are presently observing.

In addition to theories that distinguish between the sectors, I am interested in theories of the development of the public and nonprofit sectors specifically. The paradigm of public value failure (Bozeman 2007)—the idea that governments exist to realize the normative, moral preferences of society—is a new approach to the theory of government. I have been an active voice in this growing body of research, contributing significant developments in both public value theory and methodology. I am also engaged in the development and testing of nonprofit theory, empirically examining the legal basis of the nonprofit designation and providing insights regarding the unique and largely socially constructed nature of the nonprofit sector.

My ultimate purpose in doing research on the public and nonprofit sectors is to leverage an understanding of macroinstitutions for the betterment of humankind. Therefore, the third broad category of research in which I am engaged is comprised of studies that examine specific approaches to the improvement of public and nonprofit institutions. This includes the promulgation of democratic values within reformist governments, prescriptions for structuring and evaluating public service organizations, and improving the quality of public sector decision making. Current work examines the role of individual perceptions and biases in the process of making decisions about prosocial activities in the presence of risk.

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