Two Perspectives on Nonprofit Management Education: Public Administration and Social Work




nonprofit education, public administration, social work


This special issue of the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership seeks to help define the distinctiveness of particular disciplines to their understanding of nonprofit organizations and nonprofit education. While the invitation leans toward individual entries, discipline by discipline, this manuscript proposes to develop an explicit “compare and contrast” approach between the disciplines of public administration and social work. Nonprofit management is unequivocally an interdisciplinary field with our understandings drawn from numerous disciplines, among which are public administration and social work. Our compare and contrast approach will enable us and others to begin to understand how our intellectual trajectories, the frames we employ, the very questions we ask, have an impact on the curriculum we develop and teach. This is the premise on which we base the comparative approach embraced in this piece. Knowing that myriads variables could be the foci of our work, we use four parameters in our discussion: the disciplines’ historical roots; key values; challenges in management education within the discipline; and the disciplines’ approach and response to critical perspectives in nonprofit management education (NME). It is through an understanding of how public administration and social work developed along with the key values embraced by each that we can better understand the challenges we face today. We also feel it is important to provide alternative perspectives to traditional approaches, which is why we chose to include a discussion of recent approaches to NME embracing critical understandings.