Archive for the ‘nonprofit’ Category
I’m really bad at keeping up with the media cycle.
So last Wednesday, Vox put up this cute piece with the catchy title, “How Amazon Could Destroy College as We Know It.” Written in the form of a letter from Jeff Bezos to shareholders in the year 2030, it tells the story of how Amazon came to supplant traditional higher education by developing, and selling at cost, badges that people could earn to demonstrate particular skill sets. As the value of badges became evident, companies became more and more interested in using them in hiring—to the detriment, presumably, of traditional indicators like college degrees.
It’s a clever article, and well-written. It also doesn’t quite make the claim the headline implies—that the rise of Amazon badges would destroy higher education. Nevertheless, although I think that the piece gets at something real that is going on, and that is eventually going to be an important source of change, this is not how I see it going down.
Anyway, Wednesday night I started writing a blog post using a similar Bezos-to-shareholders conceit, but from a 2030 that looked quite different. It just wasn’t quite working, I think because it’s hard to see Amazon pioneering the kind of change I can imagine. Pearson, maybe. But even I can’t name the CEO of Pearson. (Apparently it’s John Fallon.)
So the format wasn’t quite working, but the underlying point still nagged. While badges may become a thing, and perhaps Amazon may even pioneer them, they are not going to be “the” new form of educational currency. The world in which “as many as half of major US employers now consider Amazon badges to be one of their top five criteria when determining whom to hire” will remain a fantasy.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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?