First Advisor

Billie Sandberg

Term of Graduation

Spring 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs and Policy


Public Affairs and Policy




Nonprofit organizations, Neoliberalism, Community development, Sociology



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 338 pages)


Research on the marketization of the nonprofit sector and how it has come to operate in more business-like ways has been well documented in recent years. This research has largely focused on how marketization has pervaded the nonprofit sector, yet little research has been done on how business-like values and modes of acting are manifesting in nonprofits. Even less understood are the impacts marketization may have on foundational civic values in the nonprofit sector. As marketized discourses proliferate, concerns have been raised about threats to nonprofit autonomy and the sector's important civic role. This dissertation aims to fill this gap by recounting the results of an ethnographic case study of a community development organization which interrogates these concepts through a multi-faceted theoretical framework incorporating Foucauldian conceptions of power and knowledge, Cruikshank's technologies of citizenship and Smith's institutional ethnography (IE). Findings indicate that marketized discourses manifest in response to perceived risks within the organization as well as key moments in the organizational life cycle. Results point to a state of fused discourses, both market and civic, that manifest toward different ends within particular contextual and temporal settings and which are also stratified in the organization. Resistance discourses to marketization were also identified and include balance, self-determination, and asset based community development. Paradoxically, this study also finds that some mechanisms of marketization prove useful in preserving civic discourses. Overall, even if neoliberal marketization is considered to be inevitable, the results of this study point to some mechanisms that can serve to balance market and civic discourses within nonprofits.


© 2021 Erin Layne Elliott

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