Articles

We would like to highlight some recent articles on grassroots, social movements and community organizing.

The list below is just some of the articles written by our members – please send us any of your latest publications.  We would also like to create a list of other recent articles that you think might be helpful and ones you think are “seminal” to the field. Please send us your suggestions (Lehn – lbenjami@gmu.edu).

We have also created a space to highlight articles in development in our “Working Papers” section. Please send us copies or links to any Working Papers that you are willing to share.

Recent Articles by Members

Chen, Katherine K. and Siobhán O’Mahony. 2009. “Differentiating Organizational Boundaries.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations 26: 183-220.

Although extant theory has illuminated conditions under which organizations mimic each other in form and practice, little research examines how organizations seek to differentiate themselves from conventional forms. Our comparative ethnographic studies examine how the Burning Man and Open Source communities developed organizations to help coordinate the production of an annual temporary arts event and nonproprietary, freely distributed software. Both communities sought to differentiate their organizations from reference groups, but this was not a sufficient condition for sustaining organizational novelty. We found that the ability to pursue a differentiated strategy was moderated by environmental conditions. By exploring the organizing decisions that each community made at two critical boundaries: one defining individuals’ relationship with the organization; the second defining the organization’s relationship with the market, we show how organizing practices were recombined from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors in unexpected, novel ways. This comparative research contributes a grounded theoretical explanation of organizational innovation that adjudicates between differentiation and environmental conditions.

Dodge, J. (2010). Tensions in deliberative practice: A view from civil society. Critical Policy Studies, 4 (4).

Based on an interpretive case study of the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, this article investigates deliberative democracy by taking a ‘view from civil society’. It examines the Network’s efforts to develop policy ideas and transmit them through diverse deliberative spheres and elaborates its ‘dual strategy’ through which it both collaborated with government agents in deliberative forums and took independent action outside them. Analysis of this strategy reveals two tensions in deliberative practice that the Network had to manage in order to transmit its ideas: (1) doing policy advocacy in collaboration with policy elites while staying ‘bottom-up’, and (2) developing policy ideas ‘relevant’ to decision-makers while maintaining the autonomy to be critical. These findings suggest that transmission is a complex process with four dimensions – relational, linguistic, spatial and temporal – that interact to shift power dynamics and create new meanings about policy.

Dodge, J. (2009) Environmental justice and deliberative democracy: How civil society organizations respond to power in the deliberative system. Policy & Society, 28 (3) 225-239.

This article examines how civil society organizations transmit policy ideas to decision makers in deliberative politics. Drawing on a case of the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, it focuses on how they respond to hegemonic power and considers action within ‘‘the deliberative system,’’ including deliberative forums and broader public discourse. I find that civil society actors use both discursive and coercive forms of power to mobilize meaning and interrupt prevailing assumptions about race in environmental decision making. Contrary to theory, the civil society organization used coercive power mostly in and relating to face-to-face deliberation (to secure a fairer process and get their policy problems on the agenda). When their ideas about racial discrimination were weakened in deliberations, however, they used non-confrontational forms of discursive power to develop critical discourse on race and disseminate it in the public sphere where it could inform future political action.

Dover, G. (2010). Public sector volunteering: Committed staff, multiple logics and contradictory strategies. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 30(2), 235-256. 10.1177/0734371X09360180

Volunteers in government agencies are significant in the delivery of public services. The participation of these volunteers, however, is not straightforward and is restricted by conflicts between their needs and those of the agency. Although volunteer perspectives have been investigated, less is known about the experience of frontline staff…

Dover, G., & Lawrence, T. B. (In Press). The role of power in nonprofit innovation. Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly. http://nvs.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/09/23/0899764011423304.abstract

Innovation is a critical issue for nonprofit organizations and the ability to innovate over time represents an important, unresolved challenge. In this article, we examine continuous innovation in nonprofits from a political perspective. We explore the role of power in shaping how and whether nonprofits are able to continuously innovate. More specifically, we examine how different forms of power are tied to different stages in the innovation process and the implications when those forms of power are under- or overdeveloped. We argue that certain characteristics of nonprofits can complicate the power dynamics associated with each stage of the innovation process. We propose that power imbalances in nonprofits can lead to four innovation pathologies: “nothing happens,” “nothing changes,” “nothing scales,” or “nothing adapts.” This article provides a framework to guide future research into nonprofit innovation as well as a practical tool for individuals and organizations who seek to facilitate continuous innovation.

Dover, G., & Lawrence, T. B. (2010). A gap year for institutional theory: Integrating the study of institutional work and participatory action research. Journal of Management Inquiry.

Institutional theory has energized a large and vibrant academic community, but it is largely unknown to managers and inconsequential with respect to the management of organizations. This is despite what the authors believe is an immense potential practical contribution. In this article, the authors suggest that institutional theory needs a gap year—a period in which core frameworks and insights from an institutional perspective are brought into contact with complex social problems. The authors focus on the study of institutional work and argue that an extended encounter with the world of participatory action research could lead to new answers to key questions and energize the development of institutional theory as both an academic and a practical project.

Eikenberry, Angela M.  2009.  “Refusing the Market: A Democratic Discourse for Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 38: 582 – 596. DOI: 10.1177/0899764009333686

This article extends critical and normative theorizing aboutthe assumptions and implications of marketization for nonprofitand voluntary organizations and suggests an alternative discourse.It describes reasons for the increasing marketization of nonprofitand voluntary organizations and what the literature has shownto be problematic about marketization. It argues that one wayto resist colonization by the market is for academics and practitionersof voluntary and nonprofit organizations to create and applya democratic counterdiscourse.

Harris, Margaret and Patricia Young. 2010. Building Bridges: The Third Sector Responding Locally to Diversity. Voluntary Sector Review 1,1: 41-58.

This paper focuses on a hitherto unstudied segment of the broad ‘third sector’: organisations and groupings that aim to build bridges (that is, increase interpersonal contacts) between people of different faiths and/or ethnic group. We draw on the findings of an empirical study, conducted in three diverse urban areas of England, of community-level projects with bridge building as an explicit aim. We describe the characteristics of bridge-building activities and the challenges they face; both the organisational challenges and those that arise from the nature of bridge building itself. We conclude by exploring the implications of our findings for an understanding of the third sector generally and for the potential role of the sector in responding to our diverse society.

Harris, Margaret and Patricia Young. 2009. Developing Community and Social Cohesion through Grassroots Bridge-Building: An Exploration. Policy and Politics 37,4: 517-534. DOI: 10.1332/030557309X435529

This article explores the nature of local ‘bridge-building’ – activities intended to increase interpersonal contacts between diverse ethnic, faith and nationality groups. We draw on earlier research in a range of fields to develop the bridge-building concept and present findings from a study that identified community-level projects with bridge-building as a specific aim. We show the range of groupings involved, the activities encompassed and their organisational features. We consider the actual and potential contribution of local bridge-building to cohesion in the light of earlier research and our own study.

Jennings, James. (2009). Community health centers in U.S. inner cities: From  cultural competency to community competency. ” Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal.

Based on an earlier study for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, including a literature review and interviews with key informants, the author argues that public health is a key venue for the empowerment of inner city neighborhoods. Therefore, community health centers should be perceived and supported as community actors involved directly or indirectly with a range of economic and political issues, rather than simply the place – albeit quite multicultural – where poor and working-class people go when they are sick.

Kim, B. J., Kavanaugh, A. L., & Hultz, K. M. (2011). Civic engagement and internet use in local governance: Hierarchical linear models for understanding the role of local community groups. Administration & Society, 43, 807-835.

Civically and politically interested individuals often use the Internet to facilitate and augment their civic and political participation. At the local level, such people also use the Internet to communicate and share information with fellow members of the local community groups to which they belong. In doing so, local groups help to create awareness and draw citizens into public deliberation about local issues and concerns, not only offline (a role they have played for many years) but also online. This research examines the interplay of individual-level and local group-level factors through an analysis of household survey data from the town of Blacksburg, Virginia, and surrounding areas in 2005 and 2006. It seeks to reconcile different levels of analysis—individual and group levels—relating to the use and impact of the Internet on civic engagement. This study identifies the distinctive influences at both the individual level and the community group level by applying a multilevel statistical model (specifically, the hierarchical linear model). First, at the individual level of analysis, this study found that internal and external political efficacy and community collective efficacy were significant individual-level factors explaining the Internet use for civic and political purposes. Second, at the group level of analysis, community group Internet use—which includes listservs, discussion forums, and blogs, among other emerging Internet technologies—and group political discussion were revealed as key influences on citizens’ perspectives on the helpfulness of the Internet for civic and political purposes. Finally, in multilevel analysis, when taking individual-level variables into account, the group-level variables (group Internet use and group political discussion and interests) are positively associated with the views of the helpfulness of the Internet in connecting with others in the community and becoming more involved in local issues.

Mandiberg, James M. (2010).  Another way: Enclave communities for people with mental Illness.  American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(2), 167-173.  DOI 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2010.01020.x

Mental health services overwhelmingly have viewed their highest service using clients as individuals with illness or dysfunction, where the objective of services is to bring them to some normative status as individuals within the broader community.  This paper proposes changing the paradigm to view this population as a community, which then can benefit from social, civil society and economic capacity and infrastructure building.  It draws on the research on immigrants and social minorities and how these communities and the dominant community come to acculturate to each other.  It is not through immediate integration and assimilation, but rather through enclave communities and the choice to participate principally in the broader community, in the enclave community, or move between both communities.  The paper then discusses several pilot projects that explored business and economic development aspects of this, e.g., a business incubator for businesses owned by people with severe and persistent mental illness histories, a credit union serving this community, a social enterprise cooperatively owned pharmacy, and others.

Walker, Edward T. & John D. McCarthy. (2010). Legitimacy, strategy, and resources in the survival of community-based organizations. Social Problems, 57(3), 315-340.

Organizations active in mobilizing low- and moderate-income communities make considerable efforts to combat inequalities and build voice for citizens, despite inherent challenges of obtaining resources, maintaining member interest, and retaining staff. How, then, do such groups remain viable—even thriving—organizations? Building upon research on organizational theory and social movements, the authors examine patterns of survival among a sample of community-based organizations (CBOs) between 1990 and 2004, thus providing the first systematic study of their long-term mortality processes. More specifically, they test how organizations’ sociopolitical legitimacy and resources (and strategies for cultivating both) influence survival, finding that the legitimacy of organizations in low-income areas is a double-edged sword, as embeddedness in resource-deprived local environments confers both benefits and disadvantages. In particular, they find the strongest support for the notion that, beyond the considerable effects of externally obtained resources, CBOs also benefit considerably by engaging in even a small amount of grassroots fundraising. Although the authors find significant effects of extra-local legitimacy in the baseline models—through organizations’ affiliation with national or regional organizing networks—they find evidence in additional analyses that the survival benefits of network affiliation are largely mediated by resources. They also find sizable but marginally significant effects of local legitimacy, and significant positive effects of organizational age and urban location. Overall, the findings suggest that although cultivating resources is the surest path to survival, organizations that build their legitimacy will be in a better position to compensate for structural resource deficits.
Stephenson, Max Jr. 2009.  Exploring the Connections Among Adaptive Leadership, Facets of Imagination and Social Imaginaries.  Public Policy and Administration 24(4): 417-435.
This article explores the relationship between leadership as adaptive work and different forms of social consciousness, and between leadership and alternative facets of imagination.  It argues that nongovernmental and government leaders typically are enjoined either to support or to challenge existing imaginaries at different levels of analytical aggregation–social, community, inter-organizational and organizational–and that they routinely employ different dimensions of imagination to do so.  These include aesthetic, cognitive, affective and moral imagination.  The essay concludes with a brief overview of the implications of the argument for leadership practice.
Stephenson, Max Jr.  2010.  Conceiving land grant university community engagement as adaptive leadership.  Higher Education. Published April 30, 2010.
This article asks land grant university leaders and faculty to think of their role in community engagement not simply as the provision of technical assistance or research and development prowess, but as an opportunity for social leadership.  It explores the case of Virginia Tech’s effort to develop a regionally based model to secure long-term social and economic change in an economically ailing part of Virginia.  The article suggests how land grant community engagement may be  understood as adaptive leadership and provides a conceptual frame to understand better the role of such research universities in community change processes.

Wilson, Catherine E. (2011). “Immigrant Nonprofit Organizations and the Fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” Nonprofit Policy Forum, Vol. 2: Iss. 2, Article 2. DOI: 10.2202/2154-3348.1025 (Available at: http://www.bepress.com/npf/vol2/iss2/2)

This paper examines the central role played by immigrant nonprofit organizations in the fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) in the City of Philadelphia from 2009-2010. Relying on sixteen months of ethnographic research (April 2009-August 2010), including over seventy interviews of nonprofit, public, and private sector leaders, this paper explores how immigrant nonprofit organizations participated in the one-year lifecycle of the Reform Immigration for America (RI4A) campaign in Philadelphia. Furthermore, the paper analyzes the institutional legacy the campaign left on these organizations, as they continue to promote immigrant integration and engage in political advocacy at the local level. Finally, the paper shares lessons learned from the Philadelphia-based campaign as immigrant coalitions throughout the United States grapple with the prospect of immigration reform amid political polarization and an uncertain economic climate.