Fragility and precarity among urban First Nations organisations in the NPM era
Since 2001, there has been a small, but growing, body of international research repeatedly pointing to the impact of changes to government funding and contractual arrangements on the Not-For-Profit (NFP) sector in the era of New Public Management (NPM). The literature points to how the capacities of NFPs have been increasingly circumscribed by conditions set down by the state. Early on, the negative impacts of underfunding and financial insecurity led to Eakin characterizing the sector as a ‘precarious sector’ (Eakin 2001, 4). While Eakin coined the term ‘funding precarity’ (Eakin 2001), others later used the term ‘funding fragility’ (Sommerlad & Sanderson 2013).
Research went on to show that funding precarity operates at various levels (Baines et al 2014), revealing that it negatively impacts organisational structures as well as vulnerable communities (Baines et al 2014, 74). Researchers explained how it had diminished the capacity of NFPs to meet the needs of their communities (Eakin & Richmond 2009, 261), including ‘to fulfil their mission – to engage their publics, to empower and give voice…’ (Alexander & Fernandez 2021). More recently, scholars have explained how NPM has reconfigured the capacity of NFPs who have shifted from community engagement to establishing organizational legitimacy with funders (Alexander & Fernandez 2020, 1).
The paper turns its attention to the results of a survey designed to examine the relationship between organizational adaptation, organizational fragility, funding precarity, and the ability of First Nations organization to act in the NPM era. The survey also set out to identify what that ability is from a First Nations standpoint.
Through the collection and analysis of survey data, the research identified characteristics that were not only related to organizational fragility among urban First Nations organizations, but also why some organizations report being stronger and innovative, and therefore ‘antifragile’. Our research reveals that antifragile organizations are those that are able to secure particular kinds of funding, are autonomous and self-determining, and able to be more responsive to the needs of First Nations people and communities in urban localities. The paper will unpack these two separate findings in more depth.