Accounts of NGO performance as calculative spaces: wild animals, wildlife restoration and strategic agency

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Whereas corporations typically share a common primary objective of generating profits for their owners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) principally pursue a panoply of various social and/or ecological objectives. Accordingly, an NGO’s performance in pursuit of its objectives can rarely be accounted for in straightforwardly comparable quantitative terms. How then can an NGO instead construct qualitative accounts of its performance that show how it makes a difference in pursuit of its objectives? This paper examines qualitative accounts of performance against an objective to restore wildlife, which are included in the annual reports of a large conservation NGO. These accounts are conceptualised as being calculative spaces, configured by framing work being done within these accounts. Analysis of this framing work finds that these accounts identify a performance object (i.e. specific wild animal populations), establish relations that seemingly affect this performance object (i.e. threats to wild animal populations and actions to conserve these populations), and attribute the NGO with agency to make a difference to this performance object (i.e. as a strategic actor directing and co-ordinating wildlife restoration). Thus, this paper demonstrates that seeing quantitative and qualitative accounts of organisational performance in the same conceptual terms creates conditions of possibility for developing a fuller understanding of an organisation’s calculations of its own capacity to act upon society.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102374
Number of pages21
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Early online date21 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful to the editors of this special issue, Eija Vinnari, Jane Baxter and Wai Fong Chua, for their helpful advice and support throughout the development of this paper. I also greatly appreciate the thoughtful and constructive comments received from participants at the 2019 BAFA Conference, University of Birmingham, and the 2019 CSEAR Conference, University of St Andrews, and from two anonymous reviewers.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • NGO
  • Accountability
  • Framing
  • Calculation
  • Discourse
  • Conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems and Management
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science


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