PurposeAs transition countries shift to a mixed welfare system, the accountability of non-government organizations (NGOs) becomes critical to quality services. Yet, poor financial and managerial practices of some NGOs in China have led to distrust from citizens. The purpose of this paper is to use a democratic accountability framework to examine citizen participation in NGOs as an approach to understand an angle of this distrust. Does the Chinese language academic literature about NGO accountability engage with concepts of participation in NGO governance, management and service use?Design/methodology/approachThe method was content analysis of a search of words and concepts relating to NGOs, participation and accountability in the available Chinese language literature on NGO accountability through the newly developed search engine Wenjin Search of the National Library of China.FindingsThe analysis found that most Chinese literature only emphasizes problems of accountability, causes and regulatory solutions. When the literature includes participation, it refers to it as a platform for civil society, rather than a process of accountability within an NGO.Research limitations/implicationsSearching by keywords in one search engine may not be exhaustive. The results probably reflect most of the current research of Chinese scholars, considering the depth of the search engine.Practical implicationsFormal NGOs are relatively new in the Chinese political landscape; and government regulations are largely administrative and unenforced. At conceptual and political levels, the absence of discussion about other forms of accountability ignores questions about public dissatisfaction with NGO performance and the public’s willingness to contribute to NGO effectiveness, and civic engagement.Originality/valueAn implication is that until Chinese NGO research also incorporates democratic accountability concepts, it will continue to ignore the internal and external drivers from citizens for NGO change. Transition country NGOs that encourage participation have the potential to engender greater accountability in the organization, community and in state relations.
International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy – Emerald Publishing
Published: Dec 4, 2017
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