The Multi-Functionality of Professional and Business Associations in a Transitional Context: Empirical Evidence from Russia
In the literature it is generally assumed that activities of voluntary membership based associations operating in stable institutional environments are multi-faceted, contributing simultaneously to societal, economic and political spheres. This article, drawing on the concept of functions of non-profit organizations investigates, whether the multi-functional character of associations holds true in the context of transitional Russia. The paper examines the relative importance of the advocacy, community building and service delivery functions, fulfilled by different types of associations. The original empirical data from exploratory interviews with 15 leading experts on associational activities was triangulated by a confirmatory survey of 215 associations across Russia. The results confirm that the absolute majority of the examined associations are multifunctional. Advocacy is considered to be the most important function for all types of associations. The findings suggest that business associations and intermediary unions are more active in policy advocacy directed toward the government, while liberal professional societies are more engaged in public advocacy addressing society at large. This study highlights importance of domestic associations for countries in transition as an institutional infrastructure of organized civil society, democratic development and market economy.