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We are what we tell: An inquiry into NGOs’ organizational identity and accountability

Pianezzi, Daniela (2021) 'We are what we tell: An inquiry into NGOs’ organizational identity and accountability.' Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal, 34 (8). pp. 1824-1850. ISSN 0951-3574

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Purpose – This study offers a critical inquiry into accountability vis-à-vis organizational identity formation. It investigates how accountability evolves in the transformation of an NGO operating in the field of migration management from an informal grassroots group into a fully-fledged organization. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is the outcome of a participatory action research project on Welcome Refugees (WR), a UK based NGO. The project involved documentary analysis, focus group and semi-structured interviews, field notes, and participant observation. The analysis draws from poststructuralist theorization to explain the interplay between organizational identity and different forms of NGO accountability over time. Findings – The study shows how different forms of accountability became salient over time and were experienced differently by organizational members thus leading to competing collective identity narratives. Organizational members felt accountable to beneficiaries in different ways and this was reflected in their identification with the organization. Some advocated a rights-based approach that partially resonated with the accountability demands of external donors, while others aimed at enacting their feelings of accountability by preserving their closeness with beneficiaries and using a need-based approach. These differences led to an identity struggle that was ultimately solved through the silencing of marginalised narratives and the adoption of an adaptive regime of accountability. Practical implications – The findings of the case are of practical relevance to quasi-organizations that struggle to form and maintain organizational identity in their first years of operation. Their survival depends not only on their ability to accommodate and/or resist a multiplicity of accountability demands but also on their ability to develop a shared and common understanding of identity accountability. Originality/value – The paper problematizes rather than takes for granted the process through which organizations acquire a viable identity and the role of accountability within them.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: accountability, organizational identity formation, NGO, narrative, migration
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2021 13:51
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:23

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