Monday, February 11, 2008

Accurately Measuring the Economic Impact of Civil Society

A recently released study provides fascinating insight into the real economic impact of nonprofits.  The Center for Civil Society Studies recently released "Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering."  The publication contains useful empirical data in an effort to more accurately measure the nonprofit sector's real economic impact around the world.  Here is the introductory section of the report:

Recent years have witnessed a significant growth of interest in the role that nonprofit institutions (NPIs) and the volunteers they help to mobilize play in addressing social needs, promoting civic involvement, and improving the quality of life in countries throughout the world. However, efforts to understand this set of institutions and to fashion policies supportive of its development have long been impeded by a lack of basic information on its scope, finances, and role.   One important reason for this has been the way nonprofit institutions are treated in the System of National Accounts (SNA), which guides official economic data-gathering and reporting internationally. Although the SNA makes provision for a “Nonprofit Institutions Serving Households,” or NPISH, sector, the rules for allocating economic units among sectors leads to the assignment of many of the economically most significant nonprofit institutions not to this NPISH sector, but to the corporations or government sectors based largely on the source of their revenues. This means that only a relatively small fraction of all NPI economic activity is visible in the SNA’s NPISH sector. Partly as a result, few countries have bothered to report on NPISH at all.

The report contains data from eight different countries and states that 20 other countries have agreed to provide additional data. 


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