The CGAP Leadership Team asked Thomasina Borkman, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, to reflect on the early days of ARNOVA and CGAP
Borkman CGAP blog
Conferences of the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars (AVAS) in the late 1970s were small informal affairs held in Universities where we could sleep in inexpensive student housing. We mostly knew each other. It was a more hospitable and personal venue for me to try out my sociological papers than many larger sociological conferences. Moreover, the interdisciplinary atmosphere fascinated me. By 1990 I had attended the Association’s conferences and presented papers for years and been active on committees, I was elected President at a critical time when it was crucial that AVAS expand from a sleepy fold-up organization to a vibrant year round membership association. As I presided over the transformation I realized sadly that I would personally not like the new larger glitzier nonprofit replacement organization. The names of the Association and the journal were also changed to ARNOVA and NVSQ. Irony: to successfully orchestrate a creature for whom you are lukewarm!
Centers of nonprofit management and research were increasing during this period; an important decision was made to combine the yearly meetings of the nonprofit management centers with the research conference of ARNOVA. The organizational predictions of myself and other stalwart AVAS fans that the concerns of the nonprofit management programs would overwhelm and minimize the substantive and theoretical issues of the disciplines of sociology, political science, social work, history and psychology seemed to be occurring. During ARNOVA conferences David Horton Smith, Jon Van Til, Carl Milofsky, and myself among others, would commiserate about the lack of a venue for community and grassroots research in the sector. CGAP was our answer which I think was the second special section following the Teaching Section.
CGAP has had a variable career as a special section similar to a community: Dedicated members of the section have edited peer reviewed papers in a special issue of NVSQ or the Handbook of Community Movements and Local Organizations (Edited by Ram A. Cnaan & Carl Milofsky, Springer 2007). Other years conflict over leadership deterred achievement. Some years we have had nothing distinctive at the annual conference or otherwise. Other years we have local community or grassroots organizations share their wares in a Pre-conference Workshop as is happening this year with the one I am organizing. This year we will have three dynamite examples of the next generation of self-help/mutual aid: creating a self-governing recovery community of prisoners in a jail pod; Recovery International is cognitive therapy run by and for “lay” people with mental health issues, or prisoners in jail or high school students; and SHARE! is a self-help center with 60 self-help support group meetings a week combining them with a clearinghouse, collaborative housing, and a volunteer to job program into a recovery community.