Toward a Coherent Framework

A Typology and Conceptualization of CSO Regulatory Regimes

Originally published in Nonprofit Policy Forum

Scholarship and practitioners interested in civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world have drawn attention to the growing set of laws—both restrictive and permissive—governing CSO activities. To date, however, there have been limited efforts to typologize these regulations which hinders the ability to analyze their emergence and effects. This article seeks to move scholarship toward a coherent framework by first, introducing a broad typology of governance, formation, operations, and resources provisions that allows for a systematic study of CSO laws and policies across contexts; and second, proposing four ideal-types of regulatory regimes, rigid-conservatism, bureaucratic-illiberalism, permissionless-association, and legitimized-pluralism. These regulatory regimes are political institutions that consist of multiple laws and constitutional protections that govern and protect civil society. The article theorizes the effect of each ideal-type regulatory regime on CSOs’ organizational ecology. To provide a concrete example, I apply the typology to the case of Kenya to show how its regulatory regime has changed incrementally over time. Methodologically, the article uses an iterative, inductive review and analysis of academic articles, book chapters, and practitioner reports contributing to our understanding of the laws and policies that regulate CSOs, or what I call CSO regulatory regimes.

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