Keast, RL, Mandell, M & Waterhouse, JM 2011, 'Big, bigger, best? the impact of reforms on the not-for-profit sector in Queensland', paper presented to 11th Public Management Research Association Conference, Syracuse University, New York, 2-4 June.
Organisations within the not-for-profit sector provide services to individuals and groups that government and for-profit organisations cannot or will not consider. The not-for-profit sector has come to be a vibrant and rich agglomeration of services and programs that operate under a myriad of philosophical stances, service orientation, client groupings and operational capacities. In Australia these organisations and services are providing social support and service assistance to many people in the community; often targeting their assistance to the most difficult of clients. Initially, in undertaking this role, the not-for-profit sector received limited sponsorship from government. Over time governments assumed greater responsibility in the form of service grants to particular groups: ‘the worthy poor’. More recently, they have entered into contractual service agreements with the not-for-profit sector, which specify the nature of the outcomes to be achieved and, to a degree, the way in which the services will be provided. A consequence of this growing shift to a more marketised model of service contracting, often offered-up under the label of enhanced collaborative practice, has been increased competitiveness between agencies that had previously worked well together (Keast and Brown, 2006). Another trend emerging from the market approach is the entrance of for-profit providers. These larger organisations have higher levels of organisational capacity with considerable organisational slack to allow them to adopt new service roles. Shaped almost as ‘shadow governments’ they appear to be a strong preference for governments looking for greater accountability of outcomes and an easier way to control the interaction with the conventional not-for-profit sector. The question is will governments’ apparent preference for larger organisational arrangements lead to the demise of the vibrancy of the not-for-profit sector and impact on service provision to those people who fall outside of the remit of the new service providers? To address this issue, this paper uses information gleaned from a state-wide survey of not-for-profit organisations in Queensland, Australia which included organisational size, operational scope, funding arrangements and governance/management approaches. Supplementing this information is qualitative data derived from 17 focus groups and 120 interviews conducted over ten years of study of this sector. The findings contribute to greater understanding of the practice and theory of the future provision of social services.