Cited as: , , , , & (2023). Negotiating autonomy in the public sector and nonprofits “collaborations” in politically contested fields. Governance, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1111/gove.12831
Nonprofits are increasingly involved in cross-sectoral collaborations with the public sector. However, we know little about the dynamics behind these collaborations and what happens to them in politically contested fields where actors may have divergent positions. In this article, a multi-country comparison of data gathered from semi-structured interviews (n = 68) with representatives of nonprofits involved in the labor market inclusion of newcomers is presented. Our findings indicate that, in politically contested fields, the possibility of participating in cross-sectoral collaborations (political autonomy) is influenced by nonprofits’ financial and ideological autonomy. Welfare models and migration regimes play a fundamental role in shaping the inclusion of these organizations in collaborations, and in most cases, the collaborations are based on latent conflicts. Our article discusses that if the costs of autonomy associated with cross-sectoral collaborations are not offset, the collaboration in a politically contested field becomes a liability for nonprofits (and their beneficiaries).