State, market, civil society | Different sectors, different values

Market, state and civil society organisations differ in the relationship they seek with those who ‘use’ them, and in their approach to power and value. Uncritical advocates of ‘partnership’ between organisations and across sectors tend to assume that all sectors and organisations value the same ends and means. They do not. The starting point for any successful collaboration must be an honest, insightful exploration of such differences.

Commercial organisations in the market seeks relationships based on buying and selling. For government, the relationship it is about voting and telling. But for the voluntary sector the essence of the relationship is giving and sharing. The market stresses a politics of competition and the state the politics of accountability. But in the charity sector, a ‘politics of generosity’ should rule.

For the market, ‘profit’ is the concern—the difference between income and costs. For the state, the preoccupation is ‘cost’, not withstanding talk of public value (the difference between public benefits and costs). In the charity sector, the emphasis is on benefit, often regardless of cost

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