UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Situating the Nonprofit Industrial Complex Singh Kelsall, Tyson; Seaby Palmour, Jake; Marck, Rory; Withers, A. J.; Luongo, Nicole; Salem, Kahlied; Sutherland, Cassie; Veark, Jasmine; Patrick, Lyana; Bailey, Aaron; et al.


This article centers on the nonprofit landscape in Vancouver, Canada, a city that occupies the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations, which have never been ceded to the colonial occupation of Canada. Vancouver has a competitive nonprofit field, with an estimated 1600+ nonprofits operating within city limits. This descriptive review starts by defining what a nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC) is, then outlines an abbreviated history of the nonprofit sector on the aforementioned lands. The article then explores issues related to colonialism, anti-poor legislation, neoliberal governance, the fusing of the public and private sectors, and the bureaucratization of social movements and care work as mechanisms to uphold the status quo social order and organization of power. Focusing on under-examined issues related to the business imperatives of nonprofit organizations in the sectors of housing, health and social services, community policing, and research, this work challenges the positive default framing of nonprofits and charities. Instead, we contend that Vancouver’s NPIC allows the government and the wealthy to shirk responsibility for deepening health and social inequities, while shaping nonprofits’ revenue-generating objectives and weakening their accountability to the community.

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CC BY 4.0