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Beyond Control: Why do Some Nonprofits Build Trust with Local Governments in China while Others Cannot?

Tue, July 13, 3:15 to 4:15pm, Virtual 2021, 4


Trust and control have been recognized as two main mechanisms of inter-organizational cooperation (Das & Teng, 1998; Poppo & Zenger, 2002). Collaboration that build on trust will help to improve the performance of cooperation (Bryson et al., 2006; Laaksonen et al., 2009). Collaboration between government and nonprofits is quite different from interfirm alliance because of the unequal power status between government and nonprofit (Gazley, 2008; Mcloughlin, 2011). The research question comes from the puzzle in China (Teets, 2013; Spires, Tao & Chan, 2014; Jing, 2015): Why Chinese local governments build their collaboration on the trust mechanism with some nonprofits, but adopt a controlled approach to coordinate with other nonprofits? This research intend to explore the key factors which determine the types of collaborative mechanisms between governments and nonprofits.
Political connections, resource dependency, cooperative choice and organizational capacity have been discussed as main factors that may affect the relationship of inter-organizations (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978; Song, Wang & Parris, 2015; Artz & Brush, 2000; Gazley & Brudney, 2007). This research tests whether these factors influence the collaborative mechanisms between government and nonprofit.
By analyzing data from 13 cases distributed in 6 cities of China using crisp-set qualitative comparative analysis (csQCA), this research aims to explore in which combinations of factors, the government-nonprofit cooperation is more inclined to build on trust mechanisms. The results show that in the Chinese context, either political social capital or choice of cooperation will help build the trust mechanism between governments and nonprofits, regardless of whether resource dependency or high organizational capacity exist. The article proposes an explanation for this by identifying three different kinds of control mechanisms exist in China, discussing their application and relationships with trust mechanism.
This research contributes to the understanding of control and trust mechanisms between governments and nonprofits. For practitioners, it will help nonprofits adopt appropriate strategies to establish more benign and effective partnerships in cooperation with the governments in some authoritarian countries.