CGA section colloqium on participatory practices – 3:15-4:45pm Thur., Nov. 15, 2102

Looking ahead to our conference in Indianapolis, Indiana:

072. Community and Grassroots Association (CGA) Section Colloquium: “Pushing the Organizational Envelope: From Participatory City Governance to Workers’ Cooperatives”
3:15- 4:45 pm Thur., Nov. 15, 2012

Participants will discuss democratic or participatory practices used in contemporary venues ranging from city governance to workers’ cooperatives. Chen will describe the debut of participatory budgeting in New York City, in which those who work, live, or attend school in four districts have proposed projects using $6 million of local funds. Greer will examine how participatory practices could address the increasing lack of accountability among social service agencies. Hoffman will compare dispute resolutions of worker cooperatives from the three industries of coal mining, taxicab driving, and food distribution. From Rothschild, participants will learn about a meta-synthetic effort that analyzes over a hundred studies on worker cooperatives and how this method could be applied to other organizational studies.

Longer Narrative
Presenters will initiate discussion among attendees on the following topics based on their research on democratic or participatory practices in contemporary venues ranging from city governance to workers’ cooperatives. These topics are timely since they cover cutting-edge participatory practices in the field and new research methods for studying these practices.

1. “Spreading Democratic Practices: Participatory Budgeting in New York City (NYC)” by Katherine K. Chen

Abstract: I will present the newly introduced practice of participatory budgeting in New York City (NYC). Those who work, live, or attend school in four districts can propose and develop projects for how to spend $6 million of funds set aside by 4 city council members. NYC is the second city in the US to try participatory budgeting in city governance. Based on participant-observations and observations of the training and neighborhood assemblies in which groups discuss and elaborate on possible proposals, as well as observations of the “First International Conference on Participatory Budgeting in the US and Canada, I will discuss lessons learned and anticipate challenges of implementing participatory budgeting, as well as implications for the spread of participatory practices more generally.

2. “Participatory practices in small nonprofits: how community counts” by Kerry Greer
As social service agencies emerged as the primary means for delivering services to the neediest members of society, their position has shifted from advocates for the poor to a role more akin to a governing agency that is unelected and has little formal accountability to the community they serve. Nonprofit governance focuses on adherence to mission statements, but as the role of social service agencies has become more critical in ensuring social welfare, and as funding has shifted away from government funds and toward private donations and grants, the range of organizations and people nonprofit agencies are accountable to has increased. This study examines how nonprofit organizations in a small Midwest community manage this shifting role, and theorizes on the mechanisms that communities utilize to hold agencies accountable.

3. “Worker Co-operatives: Dispute Resolution and the Empowered Worker” by Elizabeth A. Hoffman
This study compares dispute resolution strategies of workers in hierarchical, conventional businesses with those of members of worker cooperatives, organizations in which all workers co-own and co-manage the business. Drawing on data from three industries (coal mining, taxicab driving, and food distribution), this study finds support for some predictions in the literature that assert that the cooperative’s flattened structure and egalitarian ideology will affect workers’ grievance resolution. Although the data do not indicate a single pattern in dispute resolution strategies (i.e., with all members of the cooperatives resolving their disputes one way and all non-cooperative employees using different strategies), the data do demonstrate that, when comparing matched cooperative and conventional businesses within each industry, the worker cooperative members enjoy more dispute resolution strategies than their conventionally employed counterparts.

4. “A Meta-synthesis Approach to the Study of Workers’ Cooperatives” by Joyce Rothschild

This presentation will discuss the value of bringing together for analysis the 100+ studies that have been done on workers’ cooperatives. This qualitative meta-synthetic approach allows the researcher to retain the depth that comes from 100+ researchers’ observations and insights into the self-management processes adopted by these alternative firms, along with statistical analysis that comes from having a larger number of organizations to analyze. The author will discuss how this approach can be fruitfully used in the study of any type of non-profit enterprise.

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