Organizing for Education: A Cross-National, Longitudinal Study of Civil Society Organizations and Education Outcomes

We address two views from organization theory to consider the expansion and effects of nonprofits in education: first, a functional view emphasizing the direct effect of work of civil society organizations (CSOs) and, second, a phenomenological neoinstitutional view focusing on the cultural meaning of education CSOs as indicators of a rationalized, liberal world society. We use panel regression models with country fixed effects to analyze the crossnational expansion of domestic education CSO sectors in 130 countries from 1970 to 2014. We then examine the association between the size of the domestic education CSO sector and memberships in international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) with education outcomes, including spending, education aid, secondary and tertiary enrollments, and the share of women in secondary and tertiary education. Results show that INGO memberships, an expanded state, and an expanded education system are highly associated with the expansion of a domestic education CSO sector. Both domestic CSOs and INGO memberships tend to have a significant, positive relationship with education outcomes net of other factors. We also find preliminary evidence indicating that the causal forces at play are more complex than a straightforward direct effect of education CSOs doing good work. Specifically, CSOs, at least in part, are indicators of a Western, liberal model of a proper modern society; the underpinning culture, represented by CSOs, accounts for some educational expansion above and beyond the benefit (or harm) caused by any given entity.