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financializing social services

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Do people know about social impact bonds? I hadn’t heard of them till recently. Since then, though, I’ve developed a train-wreck fascination. They have the potential to combine all the worst features of the public and private sectors. And they can be securitized, to boot!

Let’s take a step back. What is a social impact bond, anyway?

Well. Imagine you have a social problem you’d like to solve. Say that you want to reduce recidivism among young people in prison. That sounds good, right? The problem, of course, is that taxpayers don’t want to pay for rehabilitative programs, and there’s lots of disagreement about what kind of program would actually help solve the problem, anyway.

The government says, Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody would take care of this for us, and we’d only have to pay them if they actually succeeded?

Enter Goldman Sachs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by epopp

August 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm

comment on museums and orgtheory

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Dirk vom Lehn is a lecturer in marketing, interaction, and technology at King’s College London. He is very interested in ethnomethodology and interactionism. He wrote this short comment about museums.

The Organization of Museums

Dirk vom Lehn (King’s College London)

@dirkvl

It’s holiday season and many of the readers orgtheory.net are going not only to the beach but also to museums, galleries and science centers. It therefore is just right that orgtheory.net runs a series of posts concerned with museums as organizations giving us some ideas of what to look out for, apart from the fun and entertainment of the sites. In organization studies and related disciplines there has been of course a long-standing interest in museums as organizations. Many of these disciplines however primarily focus on museums as organizations that deploy technologies to collect, archive, preserve and exhibit original objects. They curiously show little interest in studying exhibitions and the organization of actions through which the general public, including us, the readers of orgtheory.net in our leisure, gain access to and make sense of the original objects on display. Whilst there is considerable sociological and applied research in the area of audience and visitor research in museums, it largely either re-evaluates the intellectual access to museums using Bourdieusian concepts – see for example Tony Bennett’s (cf. 2009) excellent analyses – or conducts evaluation studies that aim to improve the ‘effectiveness’ of museums in providing people with physical and intellectual access to science, culture and the arts. These evaluations of ‘effectiveness’ are of limited use to museums and are in fact, as a recent report by Maurice Davies and Christian Heath (2013, p.3) suggests, “seen as a necessary chore, part of accountability but marginal to the work of museums” (Davies and Heath 2013a, p.3). For organization studies however, it would seem that this concern of museum managers with ‘effectiveness’ could be a starting-point to intervene and conduct studies on the exhibition floor. Rather than starting from educational measures and indicators of learning from exhibits that often are deployed by exhibition evaluators and museum educators, organization studies could flip perspectives and instead investigate how those acting and interacting on the exhibition floor, orient to effectiveness. So, when on our vacation we visit museums we might want to consider if we (and our family and friends) see our engagement with the original objects in the exhibitions as ‘effective’ and in what way. What would have helped our experience with the exhibits? What hindered it? Questions like these might give us a starting-point where to start and expand organization studies’ perspective on museums on our return to the office. Until then, enjoy your vacations and the museums you visit.

Some References

Bennett, Tony, Mike Savage, Professor of Sociology Mike Savage, Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva, Alan Warde, Modesto Gayo-Cal, and David Wright. 2009. Culture, Class, Distinction. Routledge.

Bittner, Egon. 1965. “The Concept of Organization.” Edited by Roy Turner. Social Research 32 (3): 239–258. doi:10.5449/idslu-001091498.176.

Davies, Maurice, and Christian Heath. 2014. “‘Good’ Organisational Reasons for ‘ineffectual’ Research: Evaluating Summative Evaluation of Museums and Galleries.” Cultural Trends 23 (1): 57–69. doi:10.1080/09548963.2014.862002.

Garfinkel, Harold. 1956. “Some Sociological Concepts and Methods for Psychologists.” Psychological Research Reports 6 (October): 181–195.

Heath, Christian, and Dirk vom Lehn. 2008. “Configuring ‘Interactivity’: Enhancing Engagement in Science Centres and Museums.” Social Studies of Science 38 (1): 63–91. doi:10.1177/0306312707084152.

vom Lehn, Dirk. 2014. Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

August 4, 2014 at 3:10 am

Posted in fabio, nonprofit

the creationism museum: lessons for social movement theory

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This summer, Casey Oberlin finished her Ph.D. and she will soon join the sociology faculty of Grinnell College. Her dissertation is a fascinating study of the Creationism Museum in Kentucky. It’s hard to do proper service to such a rich work, but I’d like to summarize some key points for students of social movements and organizations.

Roughly speaking, one branch of the creationist movement has decided to drop conventional politics and instead spend their resources on a museum. This is an interesting issue – why would a museum be viewed as a viable movement strategy? A few key points from Casey’s work:

  • This is an example of “bypassing” where movements decide that electoral politics is limited.
  • This is an example of trying to encourage cultural change.
  • This is a leveraging of existing academic and intellectual structures. They don’t reject science and academia, they dispute one specific issue (evolution).
  • This is an example of factionalism and organizational learning, where current creationists have decided to break off and do it differently because of previous movement failure.

There is much, much more. A nuanced work.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

August 1, 2014 at 1:01 am

museums vs. neo-institutional theory

In this post, I’ll revive an argument that I raised in the journal Museum & Society. In an article co-authored with Nick Rowland (a former guest on this blog), we argued that it is unwise to use museums as an exemplar of institutional theory. According to the traditional view, museums are these completely malleable things that bend to the will of the institutional environment.

Instead, we argue that there is a technical core to museums that often asserts itself. For example, contemporary art often requires large spaces to installations. Museums that wish to preserve their art must have technology for controlling temperature and humidity. Modern museums also have systems for managing accounts, tracking attendance, and other tasks. We don’t argue that institutionalism is wrong, but that museums are not the “cultural dupes” that appear in the literature. Even cultural organizations have technical cores that must be integrated with their social environments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 31, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

NGOs and reputations

A couple of weeks ago I was at a workshop at Oxford about NGOs and reputations. The workshop was sponsored by the Centre for Corporate Reputation and gathered scholars from a number of disciplinary backgrounds to explore how NGOs create and maintain reputations. In addition, we were interested in examining the reputational consequences that result from their interactions with corporations. At the end of the workshop I shared some of my takeaways.

It occurred to me that a number of the papers in the workshop conceptualized NGO reputation in a similar way to how we think about corporate reputations. For example, we assume that reputations are shared perceptions that reflect how an organization (successfully or unsuccessfully) differentiates itself from competitors, or we learn that organizations strategically try to manage the impressions of their key audiences in order to create a positive reputation. But if NGO reputations are similar in most ways to corporate reputations, do we learn anything new by studying NGOs that we couldn’t learn by studying for-profit organizations? Do NGO reputations differ fundamentally from corporate reputations?

I think they are different in at least one really important way: NGOs are valued because we believe they are somehow more morally authentic than other kinds of organizations. Therefore, a NGO’s reputation is grounded in how well it meets its audience’s expectations for moral authenticity. Two questions might come to mind as I try to make the link between moral authenticity and reputation. The first is, what does it mean to be authentic anyway? It’s quite possible that the term is too fuzzy to be analytically useful or perhaps we only ascribe authenticity to organizations in a post-hoc way. And second, why should NGOs be expected to be any more morally authentic than other organizations?

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Written by brayden king

July 30, 2014 at 10:19 pm

the rock and roll museum sucks, big time

I recently visited Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s not a terribly good museum, even though it covers a topic, rock and roll, which is very exciting. In this post, I’ll try to figure out what goes wrong.

It always helps to start with a discussion of what museums do. In general, they (a) entertain, (b) educate/inform/indoctrinate, and (c) act as an archive or research center. It’s pretty clear that the R&R Museum isn’t scholarly, so we have to think about how the museum tries to entertain or engage the audience, or tell the audience something.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

the people of good taste vs. the george lucas museum

Over the past few years, George Lucas has tried to find a home for his museum, which will house his personal collection of contemporary art and, of course, the deepest collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the world. At first, he tried his backyard, San Francisco, before choosing the city of Chicago.

It turns out the move to Chicago won’t be worry free. Apparently, a coalition of Bears fans will try to stop the Lucas Museum from locating itself next to soldier field. From artnet.com:

The group fighting for maintaining public and open space claims that Lucas’s plans for a 95,000-square-foot cultural institution are in direct violation of a city ordinance that ensures that space adjacent to Lake Michigan be reserved for public use. The other group threatening to sue over the choice of location for the museum—which will house artworks from Lucas’s private collection including pieces by Maxfield Parrish, Alberto Vargas, and Norman Rockwell, as well as Star Wars memorabilia—has a much more practical reason for its opposition: The institution would be built on a site that is currently devoted to two parking lots next to Soldier Field use by Bears fans for pregame tailgating.

This nicely illustrates how organizations fit into urban systems. First, there are the overt politics of an organization. Is it welcome? Does it flaunt public values? Second, how does it fit into the “spontaneous order” of urban politics? While the planner in the mayor’s office probably saw an ugly parking lot, they didn’t see how locals use the space for the very emotionally rooted rituals, like football. Later in the article, various people are quoted as saying that they welcome the Lucas museum, but maybe it should be used to develop low income neighborhoods. Thus, the Lucas Museum has been punted from being part of the “urban engine” of sports and entertainment and thrown into the domain of Chicago race politics. It will be interesting to see if Lucas sidesteps this, or is drawn into another development quagmire.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 29, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

this is museum week on orgtheory

This week, we’ll have a series of posts dedicated to museums. Some will be personal, others academic. Here’s the line up:

  • Tuesday: The trials of the George Lucas museum.
  • Wednesday: Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could be better.
  • Thursday: The limits of institutional theory as applied to museums.
  • Friday: What the Creationism Museum in Kentucky tells us about social movements.

For some, it’ll be better than shark week.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power 

Written by fabiorojas

July 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

more organizational non-organizational sociology

We’ve been talking about the diffusion of organizational thinking into parts of sociology that don’t identify as “organizational sociology.” Monika Krause’s new book, The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason, is the latest example of this.

Krause coverI was familiar with Krause’s name, but the first article of hers I ran into was a 2012 piece on “model systems” in sociology, coauthored with Michael Guggenheim. The paper explores whether sociology has model systems analogous to the fruit fly or E. coli in biology — specific organisms studied by lots of people so that a large body of knowledge can be developed and eventually extended to other organisms.

The paper suggests that yes, sociology does have model systems. Think of Chicago in urban sociology, or the French Revolution in comparative-historical, or doctors in the study of professions. But, due both to the nature of what we study (the city of Chicago can’t be reproduced in a lab in Germany, like mice can) and the difficulty of standardization (there may be many studies of hospitals, but two hospitals will differ more than two C. elegans), cumulation is harder in sociology.

The concept was cool, and it stuck with me. The new book is on a very different topic, although it also touches on the production of knowledge.

The book is an interview-based study of large humanitarian NGOs. It argues that such NGOs are structured to make “good projects” the main goal of desk officers. Because the success of the project is what the organization demands, and officers are rewarded for, they have incentives to provide help that will have measurable short-term effects on groups that are relatively easy to assist. The people who are in need have to compete to show that they are the right kind of population — one that will benefit in the ways desired by donors. This dynamic has a variety of effects on what kind of assistance is provided — some benign, others less so.

I found this particularly interesting because it echoes findings by Joe Gibbons, a PhD student whose committee I’m on. (Defending Tuesday and on the job market — check him out here!) Joe’s dissertation looks at community-based organizations in Newark and Jersey City. He discovered that funding agencies’ focus on maximizing impact — “impact” meaning “numbers of people reached” — meant that when times got tough, groups doing excellent work serving smaller immigrant communities, for example, could lose funding entirely. Others had to adjust their strategies to serve as large a population as possible, even if that didn’t really align with their mission or competency. His quantitative findings also suggested the most disadvantaged neighborhoods tended to be underserved by CBOs — which would be compatible with a donor preference for helping populations likely to show measurable success.

Both of these studies are fundamentally organizational, and find overlapping results. The Good Project is explicitly about how organizations operating within a particular field develop logics that shape those organization’s practices in complex, but comprehensible ways. Joe’s dissertation looks at how city-specific fields of CBOs shape how and to whom services are provided. Yet studies like these — one in the development literature, one in urban soc — are unlikely to be put into conversation with one another.

At any rate, you can preview a nice chunk of The Good Project here. I know I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

Written by epopp

June 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

book spotlight: from social movement to moral market by paul-brian mcinerney

I had the pleasure of reading Paul-Brian McInerney’s book, From Social Movement to Moral Market, as it was being written. It’s a good book that expands on the new sociology of markets, which focuses on how ideas of worth and value influence firms and exchange. The main contribution of McInerney’s book is explaining how one specific movement, the Circuit Riders, innovated the field of IT for non-profits. This is a big area of the  market and it raises a number of issues that are worth discussing.

At first, the Circuit Riders start off as a typical movement.  A small cluster of nerds who have the dream of helping non-profits exploit new information technologies. Later, things get interesting as Microsoft jumps into the fray and creates a hybrid organization that bridges the IT consulting world and the idealistic nerd world. This creates a sort of situation of moral ambivalence where people question the role of various organizations in helping non-profits. Thus, movements create new spaces that have to be negotiated as markets mature and become institutionalized.

The bigger picture is that McInerney’s book makes a strong case that movements are vital actors in society. Not only do they push for political change, but they are responsible for creating markets and organizations. I think research likes this makes the case that studies of social change should more consistently look for movement like actors across different social domains.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

May 7, 2014 at 12:01 am

2014 Penn Social Impact Doctoral Fellows Program – due date March 14, 2014

For those grad students who are studying non-profits, voluntary associations, and philanthropy, here’s an opportunity to work alongside colleagues and Prof. Peter Frumkin this summer:

Join PhD students from around the country (and world) to critically examine issues in the nonprofit sector and to work on your own research in nonprofit management, volunteerism, international civil society, social entrepreneurship and philanthropic studies.

Under the direction of Dr. Peter Frumkin, students participate in an intensive four week seminar that culminates in the completion of a publishable paper that is ready to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Students are expected to submit a draft research paper that they would like to refine and prepare for academic publication during the summer program. This is a continuation of the program that Dr. Frumkin ran for five years at the RGK Center in Austin, Texas and that had helped dozens of students advance their careers.

Graduate students enrolled in doctoral-level PhD programs are invited to apply for the Penn Summer Fellows Program:

Program Details:

Dates: June 7 – July 1, 2014

  • Application process is competitive and takes into consideration the academic potential of the student and the working paper topic
  • $3,000 stipends are provided to each Summer Fellow
  • Housing in Philadelphia, PA will be arranged and paid for by the Nonprofit Leadership Program

Application Procedure

  • Application Deadline: March 14, 2014
  • Email a current resume, draft paper, and abstract to Leeamy1  [at]  sp2  [dot]  upenn  [dot] edu.
  • Selection is based on past record and academic potential

Written by katherinechen

March 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

post-curator art

I was recently listening to the podcast, Bad at Sports, which covers the contemporary art world. This episode is a long interview with dealer, writer, and provacteur Matt Gleason. A lot of good stuff, but this caught my ear. Gleason claims that one of the major reasons that Jeffrey Deitch was disruptive as director of LAMOCA was that he pursued “post-curator art.” What does that mean? My translation:

Over the last 50 years, the art world has institutionalized. Museums are run by professionals, artists get MFA, and the art market is centralizing around art fairs. What is so disruptive about Dietch was that rejected the institutionalization of the curator – the people who pick art, stage exhibitions, and manage collections.

In other words, in a world of professionalization, Dietch said: “Screw it, my kid can do this.” And he did it. Dietch fired one of the main curators, had celebrities do shows, and curated many shows himself. Very “post.”

 I once asked an art professional what he learned from interacting with Dietch, and he said something like, “I learned that you can hand over an art gallery to teenagers and it’ll work.” Metaphor perhaps, but it captures the spirit. People with degrees don’t have a monopoly over good taste. Gleason notes that this is self-serving. A museum with poor finances, like LAMOCA, might not have the cash for carefully curated shows and it would be easy to have some SoCal celebrity show work. But still, the comment is telling. The art world has institutionalized, but it rests on jello foundations.

Sacred Texts for Pious Grad Students: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

November 20, 2013 at 12:46 am

storytelling in organizations, the state of the field of organizations and values, and a freebie article

I’ve recently published two articles* that might be of interest to orgheads, and Emerald publisher has ungated one of my articles:

1. Chen, Katherine K. 2013. “Storytelling: An Informal Mechanism of Accountability for Voluntary Organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42(5): 902-922.**

Abstract

Using observations, interviews, and archival research of an organization that coordinates the annual Burning Man event, I argue that storytelling is a mechanism by which stakeholders can demand accountability to their needs for recognition and voice. I identify particular frames, or perspectives and guides to action, articulated in members’ stories. Deploying a personalistic frame, storytellers recounted individuals’ contributions toward a collective endeavor. Such storytelling commemorated efforts overlooked by official accounts and fostered bonds among members. Other storytellers identified problems and organizing possibilities for consideration under the civic society or anarchist frames. By familiarizing organizations with members’ perspectives and interests, stories facilitate organizational learning that can better serve stakeholders’ interests. Additional research could explore whether (1) consistent face-to-face relations (2) within a bounded setting, such as an organization, and (3) practices that encourage participation in organizing decisions and activities are necessary conditions under which storytelling can enable accountability to members’ interests.

2. Chen, Katherine K., Howard Lune, and Edward L. Queen, II. 2013. “‘How Values Shape and are Shaped by Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations:’ The Current State of the Field.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 42(5): 856-885.

Abstract

To advance understanding of the relationship between values and organizations, this review synthesizes classic and recent organizational and sociological research, including this symposium’s articles on voluntary associations. We argue that all organizations reflect, enact, and propagate values. Organizations draw on culture, which offers a tool kit of possible actions supported by institutional logics that delineate appropriate activities and goals. Through institutional work, organizations can secure acceptance for unfamiliar practices and their associated values, often under the logic of democracy. Values may be discerned in any organization’s goals, practices, and forms, including “value-free” bureaucracies and collectivist organizations with participatory practices. We offer suggestions for enhancing understanding of how collectivities advance particular values within their groups or society.

3.  In addition, one of my previously published articles received the “Outstanding Author Contribution Award Winner at the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2013.”  Because of the award, Emerald publisher has ungated this article (or, as Burners like to say, contributed a gift to the gift economy :) ) to download here (click on the HTML or PDF button to initiate the download):

Chen, Katherine K. 2012. “Laboring for the Man: Augmenting Authority in a Voluntary Association.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations 34: 135-164.

Abstract:

Drawing on Bourdieu’s field, habitus, and capital, I show how disparate experiences and “dispositions” shaped several departments’ development in the organization behind the annual Burning Man event. Observations and interviews with organizers and members indicated that in departments with hierarchical professional norms or total institution-like conditions, members privileged their capital over others’ capital to enhance their authority and departmental solidarity. For another department, the availability of multiple practices in their field fostered disagreement, forcing members to articulate stances. These comparisons uncover conditions that exacerbate conflicts over authority and show how members use different types of capital to augment their authority.

* If you don’t have access to these articles at your institution, please contact me for a PDF.

** Looking for more storytelling articles?  Check out another one here.

Written by katherinechen

October 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

The Golden Age of LISREL

Jim Moody and I are writing an article on data visualization in Sociology. Here’s a picture that won’t be in the final version, but I like it all the same.

The Golden Age

Written by Kieran

September 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

arnova call for papers now extended to April 1, 2013

ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) has extended its submission deadline to April 1, 2013.

“ARNOVA’s 42nd Annual Conference 2013 Call for Participation

Recession, Renewal, Revolution? Nonprofit and Voluntary Action in an Age of Turbulence
Marriott Hartford Downtown ● Hartford, Connecticut ● November 21-23, 2013

Since the late 2000s, the world has become a constant changing and turbulent place. Economic crises have arisen across the globe, creating high levels of need at a time when public and philanthropic dollars are becoming scarcer. Advances in technology and communication have facilitated social movements, challenging and even bringing down governments from Wall Street to Cairo. People come together for causes across boundaries-gathering internationally and virtually to try to address wicked problems such as climate change, individual rights, and poverty. In a world that is facing constant change and weathering these turbulent forces, it is important for scholars to reflect on how have nonprofit organizations, NGOs, social movements, and other forms of voluntary action been affected by the economic and social turbulence of the past five years?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

March 25, 2013 at 7:19 pm

see you at ess in Boston, March 21-24, 2013

Going to Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) annual meeting in Boston on Thur., March 21 through Sun., March 24? Details about the ESS conference are available here.

Here’s a special plug for a “conversation” between senior scholars about organizations:

3:30-5pm, Fri., March 22, 2013
156.Organizations and Societal Resilience: How Organizing Practices Can Either Inhibit or Enable Sustainable Communities Conversation
Whittier Room (4th Flr)
Organizer:Katherine Chen, City University of New York
Presider: Katherine Chen, City University of New York
Discussants: George Ritzer, University of Maryland
Carmen Sirianni, Brandeis University

Here are several examples of other panels and presentations relevant to orgtheory:
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

March 8, 2013 at 2:43 am

arnova 2013 call for participation

Those of you who are doing research on nonprofit organizations or voluntary associations might be interested in the following conference hosted by the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA).

“ARNOVA’s 42nd Annual Conference

2013 Call for Participation

Recession, Renewal, Revolution?

Nonprofit and Voluntary Action in an Age of Turbulence

Marriott Hartford Downtown ● Hartford, Connecticut ● November 21-23, 2013

Since the late 2000s, the world has become a constant changing and turbulent place. Economic crises have arisen across the globe, creating high levels of need at a time when public and philanthropic dollars are becoming scarcer. Advances in technology and communication have facilitated social movements, challenging and even bringing down governments from Wall Street to Cairo. People come together for causes across boundaries-gathering internationally and virtually to try to address wicked problems such as climate change, individual rights, and poverty. In a world that is facing constant change and weathering these turbulent forces, it is important for scholars to reflect on how have nonprofit organizations, NGOs, social movements, and other forms of voluntary action been affected by the economic and social turbulence of the past five years?

Jessica Sowa & Chao Guo

Conference Co-Chairs

Calendar of Key Dates:

PAPER SUBMISSION OPENS: February 26, 2013

PAPER SUBMISSION CLOSES: March 26, 2013 at midnight Eastern Time

NOTIFICATION OF SELECTION/REJECTION: June 1, 2013

IMPORTANT: Only current ARNOVA members can submit a paper for consideration. Please log into the ARNOVA Membership Database at www.arnova.org no later than February 18 to ensure that your membership is active and your information is up to date (especially your email address). Should you have any problems logging in, please contact your Membership Services Coordinator, Rosalind Conners at rconners [at] arnova [dot] org.”

Learn more about ARNOVA sections here.
Learn about support for emerging scholars and doctoral students, as well as awards here.

Written by katherinechen

February 19, 2013 at 1:38 am

participatory democracy in the mainstream

Francesca Polletta has a really nice essay in Contemporary Sociology in which she reviews several new-ish books about participatory democracy and how its practiced in different organizational settings. One of the books she takes up in the essay is by our co-blogger Katherine Chen and another is by former guest blogger, Daniel Kreiss.  In her essay Polletta makes the point that participatory democracy as a mechanism for collective governance has gone mainstream. A variety of actors now use participatory democracy in their organizational forms, from online activism to political campaigns to for-profit business. Although the practices used to implement participatory democratic processes vary across settings, they all embrace the principle that “decisions [should be] made by the people affected by them.” It is typically associated with nonhierarchical leadership and collective deliberation.

The essay is well worth reading. One of the issues that comes up whenever we talk about participatory democracy is its sustainability as a governance mechanism. Can an organization grow and maintain its participatory processes? The political theorist Roberto Michels thought that the answer was no.  He argued that as radical political organizations grew in scale and scope they faced internal pressures toward bureaucratization and oligarchy. The inevitable outcome of the oligarchization process was that once radical organizations became captured by careerists with a more conservative agenda.  Organizational scholars have assumed that these internal pressures are overpowering.

Although Polletta doesn’t address Michel’s hypothesis directly in her essay, she suggests that some organizations are learning to deal with these internal pressures. Experience and learning from others has helped organizations develop better processes and ways of dealing with pressures to bureaucratize.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by brayden king

January 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

2013 Penn Summer Fellows Program (for doctoral students)

Speaking of developing professional and intellectual ties with colleagues, here’s a great opportunity for doctoral students to meet and work alongside colleagues who are working on “nonprofit organizations, voluntary action, philanthropy and international civil society.”

This summer program is led by UPenn Prof. Peter Frumkin, whose publications include On Being Nonprofit (Harvard University Press, 2002), Serving Country and Community: Who Benefits from National Service (co-authored with JoAnn Jastrzab, Harvard, 2010), The Essence of Strategic Giving: A Practical Guide for Donors and Fundraisers (University of Chicago Press, 2010), and The Strategic Management of Charter Schools (co-authored with Bruno Manno and Nell Edgington, Harvard Education Press 2011).

“Apply now for the 2013 Penn Summer Fellows Program

The University of Pennsylvania’s Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) Program invites doctoral students everywhere to apply for the 2013 Penn Summer Fellowship Program.

Facilitated by Peter Frumkin, Professor of Social Policy and Director of Penn’s NPL Program, the seminar will explore emerging issues in the world of nonprofit organizations, voluntary action, philanthropy and international civil society. The program will be held June 3-28, 2013 at The University of Pennsylvania. Students are expected to submit a draft research paper that they would like to refine and prepare for publication during the program. Housing in Philadelphia near the Penn campus and $3,000 stipends are provided to all Summer Fellows.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

December 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Posted in academia, nonprofit

grassroots activism and non-profits

Last week, I gave a brief talk at ARNOVA, the academic association of non-profit scholars. Our friend, Katherine Chen, asked me to speak about Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and other recent movements.

My talk focused on a few simple points that deserve further thought:

  • First, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) represents a rejection of traditional progressive organizing. Throughout the 20th century, a lot of left social movements have worked through big organizations – unions, NAACP, the National Women’s Party, etc.
  • Second, the Tea Party represents the first major conservative movement in American history to happen completely within the Republican party. Tea Party sympathizers are overwhelmingly Republican, Tea Party orgs were started by GOP PACS.
  • Third, the Arab Spring represents a sort of melding on for-profit and non-profit spaces. Facebook and twitter aren’t just electronic message boards. It’s a “place” where activism was planned in a space of relative safety. And remember, Facebook is a for-profit group.

Add your own view on the link between recent movements and the non-profit form in the comments.

Great books, great prices: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

November 28, 2012 at 12:01 am

non-profit research in b-schools

Question: Which b-schools are strong in scholars who study non-profits?

Adverts: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

September 22, 2012 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, nonprofit

book spotlight: philanthropy in america by olivier zunz

Students of orgtheory should like Philanthropy in America by Olivier Zunz, a well known American historian at the Unviersity of Virginia. PiA is a comprehensive overview of the non-profit sector in America. If I teach a graduate course on the non-profit sector, I’d definitely put this on the reading list. You would be hard pressed to find another  book that so deftly conveys the ups and downs of the non-profit world. It’s a nice compliment to more social science approaches like The Non-Profit Handbook that focus on questions that economists and sociologists would ask.

Much of the material will be familiar to students of the non-profit sector, especially the chapters on post-war philanthropy. We get a chapter on the 1969 tax reform act. The various approaches to philanthropy over the years get a lot of coverage (e.g., civil rights oriented charity vs. Cold War era programs of the 1950s). PiA also has some material on the most recent wave of philanthropy driven by the new superwealthy, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

What orgtheory readers will find most rewarding is the emphasis on the changing nature of the state-non-profit relationship. Zunz correctly points out that Americans have never exactly sorted out how they feel about the non-profits. Sometimes, non-profits are treated as central actors in American social policy. At other time, Americans view philanthropists as wealthy meddlers.

No where is this more apparent than in a highly instructive chapter about the 1920s. Hoover, contrary to popular wisdom, did not respond to the great depression by ignoring people and relying on the free market, though he did engage in laissez-faire rhetoric. Instead, Hoover believed in strong Federal intervention in the economy, but he wanted much of the effort channeled through philanthropic organizations. It’s a view that is not common now, but it might be called “local charities/national direction.” FDR also believed in having a strong welfare state, but his approach was to exclude private third parties and administer relief programs directly through the state.

Overall, a solid book that will lead to more insight into the evolution of the non-profit sector.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 30, 2012 at 12:01 am

conference for orgtheory in developing regions

Writing from the home office in Switzerland, Tim draws my attention to a conference for management PhD scholars interested in development. From the call for papers for the UNDP Development Academy:

The oikos UNDP Young Scholars Development Academy 2012 provides PhD students and young scholars working on poverty, sustainable development, and the informal economy from an Organisation and Management Theory perspective a platform to present and discuss their on-going research projects with fellow students and senior faculty.

Research on inclusive business models, market development and sustainability between the informal and formal economy is a promising and challenging field for young researchers and PhD students. It calls for a multitude of methods, combination of disciplines in strategy, organisation studies, sociology, anthropology and economics, and new research designs, e.g. market ethnography in organisation studies.

Great opportunity for orgtheory PhD students and tenure track/post docs. Check it out.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 8, 2012 at 12:15 am

voluntary associations in the U.S.

With all of the talk and debate about nonprofits, it seems like an opportune time to share a book review I’ve written about Politics and Partnerships: The Role of Voluntary Associations in America’s Political Past and Present by Elisabeth Clemens and Doug Guthrie.

Voluntary associations play a vital, although sometimes not very visible, role in American society as engines of innovation in political and civic life. Associations create much of the fabric that weaves social life together, whether through generating social capital by linking people to others in their community or by constructing identities around which people organize and find meaning. Yet, for all their importance, voluntary associations often receive the short end of the stick in organization theory. Perhaps because they are seen as so different from firms as to need their own theories or because organizational scholars increasingly reside in business schools where there is more interest in for-profit organizations, voluntary associations have taken a backseat to firms as the focal unit in organizational theory. A negative side effect of ignoring associations in organizational theory, of course, is that we fail to fully understand the integrative role they play in society, linking the domains of market and state and serving as key nodes in civil society. The editors of this volume, Elisabeth Clemens and Doug Guthrie, have gathered a diverse and interdisciplinary set of scholarly voices to provide a rich overview of the organized nature of American voluntarism. The contributors emphasize that voluntary associations have historically been central players in the U.S. business and political worlds, and although the nature of voluntary associations has changed in recent years, their centrality has not waned.

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Written by brayden king

July 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

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