Not-for-profits and pro-sociality in public service provision

  • Susan E Steed

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis focuses on two, related, issues that are relevant to the delivery of public services. The first is whether it makes a difference if organisations that deliver public services are driven by profit and if there is anything distinctive about not-for-profit providers. The second concerns the role of intrinsic motivations, both in terms of people who work to provide public goods, and decisions that people make about donating to charity. This thesis comprises four substantive chapters that use different methods to shed light on these issues. The first chapter provides an overview of the literature in economics on not-for-profit organisations and their changing role in the delivery of public services. The second and third chapters both consider Legal Aid, which is a public service area, like many others, wherein quality is difficult to assess and monitor through contracts. The second chapter compares the performance of not-for-profit and for-profit areas across several areas. The next chapter considers a different data set and how behaviour has changed as the funding environment for both provider types has unified and become more competitive. This includes an analysis of how providers respond to contracts and performance standards and whether gaming is more frequent in either type of organisation. The final chapter is an experiment carried out with a local authority during the launch of a pro- social project. It tests whether asking people to make a commitment in advance makes them more likely to sign up.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSarah L Smith (Supervisor)

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