Culture, power and resistance: hybridisation of management systems in South African NPOs

Claeyé, Frederik (2013) Culture, power and resistance: hybridisation of management systems in South African NPOs. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The present thesis examines the emergence of hybrid management systems in non-profit organisations (NPOs) in South Africa. In the face of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, ‘managing for development results’ has become a central element in the international discourse on ‘aid effectiveness’. The emphasis on better management and organisation as a way forward in the development trajectory of Third World countries is underpinned by managerialist modes of thinking. This discourse has spread to NPOs as these have increasingly been inserted into the aid system, which has resulted in a push for NPOs to become ‘more business-like’. However, this raises some questions with regard to how managers in these organisations internalise and resist this discourse, and how, in turn, this affects management ideas and practices in NPOs. This is particularly problematic in view of the a-historical, a-contextual and a-political understanding of cultural encounters, which underlies the managerialist assumption that western, corporate ‘best practices’ can be extrapolated unaltered to the context of international development interventions. Furthermore, it also raises important questions about the power dynamics shaping this hybridisation process. Drawing on the more critical traditions within Development Studies and Management and Organisation Studies this thesis aims to contribute to this growing body of literature by taking a critical cross-cultural approach to the study of management in NPOs in order to further our understanding of the process of hybridisation, its outcomes and the power dynamics at work.
Using an interpretive framework, the purpose of this thesis is to examine the emergence of hybrid management systems resulting from the interplay between the managerialist discourse emanating from the global governance structure of international aid and the local humanist discourse of Ubuntu in order to enhance effective and culturally appropriate management in NPOs. Drawing on Homi Bhabha’s notions of mimicry and hybridity, this interaction at the ‘global/local’ interface and its outcomes are examined. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with managers and team leaders from NPOs in the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces in order to understand how participants construct the notion of ‘NPO management’.
The main finding of the study is that respondents have largely internalised the managerialist discourse and its associated practices. This mimicry of the managerialist discourse, however, is not complete and allows for resistance and hybridity. The data suggest that in resisting the managerialist discourse the respondents revert to the local humanist discourse of Ubuntu. As such mimicry and hybridity rest on an on-going appropriation, translation and interpretation of the managerialist discourse through a cultural lens. This leads to the emergence of hybrid ways of managing that seek to reconcile instrumentalist (managerialist) and humanist (Ubuntu) world views, which are more attuned to the local, cultural context in which they are deployed.
At a theoretical level, the contribution of this study lies in furthering the emerging literature on critical perspectives in the third sector. It also contributes to the furthering of cross-cultural management theory by including a consideration of the under-researched issues of context and power in understanding cross-cultural interactions at the global/local interface. At a practical level, it highlights that the adoption of managerialism leads to practices that are inappropriate to the local contexts, and therefore needs addressing. Hence, it may contribute to developing more effective and culturally appropriate ways of managing and highlights the need to focus more critically on cross-cultural management issues in our current efforts to make aid more effective.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords (uncontrolled): Cross-cultural management, hybridity, mimicry, non-profit management, postcolonial theory, South Africa.
Research Areas: A. > Business School
B. > Theses
Item ID: 17422
Notes on copyright: Thesis embargoed because the content has been published in a book: Managing Nongovernmental Organizations: Culture, Power, and Resistance. Routledge, 2014. ISBN 9780415729727.
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Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2015 16:20
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:47

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