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Posts Tagged ‘communities

summer reading: spotlight on conflict and decision-making by consensus at premium cola

As some of our dear orgtheory readers know, I am always on the look-out for interesting articles about how organizations use collectivist or participatory-democratic practices. One recent publication I would like to highlight involves a collectivist group fueled by a common love of cola, coffee, and beer.

Fans of a caffeinated soft drink, frustrated by Afri-Cola new owner’s refusal to change the recipe back to the original*, became the new owners and producers of the drink. Not only did they band together to revive the original product using what they considered to be more ethical market standards, they organized using the practice of decision-making by consensus.**

Participatory-democracy invariably elicits conflicts that might be avoided or suppressed under more hierarchical organizations. Members have to learn how to manage contention if they wish to stay cohesive. Premium Cola‘s members had to learn how to do this via a discussion email list.

Husemann, Ladstaetter, and Luedicke’s (2015) “Conflict Culture and Conflict Management in Consumption Communities” examines the types of conflicts and actions taken to address these conflicts within Premium Cola. The authors note the generative qualities of routinized conflict, including the reaffirmation of commitment to a collective mission:

When analyzing the Premium community’s conflicts, we found that the community’s conflict culture involved a limited set of routinized and recurring conflict behaviors. Members use behaviors such as inviting conflict, showing respect for otherness, or releasing aggressions to argue different topics, but use them in similar ways. Many of these behaviors are known from normative conflict sociology as conflict cultivation practices, i.e. routinized behaviors that conflict parties use to perform conflicts in civilized and productive, rather than destructive, ways. Through inventing, selecting, abandoning, enacting, or improving such routinized conflict behaviors, Premium community members are able to produce value rather than destroy value through uncontrolled or abusive conduct.

In contrast, transgressive conflict, in which participants break multiple norms, can lead to abusive interactions. These lead to more active interventions, including the eventual expulsion of a member over his repeated sexist comments about the hiring of a female intern and insults of other members. While the exchanges threatened corrosion, the subsequent actions taken reaffirm Premium Cola’s identity and commitment to community.

* The original recipe had less sugar and more caffeine than the newer recipe.

**More about the fascinating history and ethos of Premium Cola is available here, where the Ladstaetter and Luedicke describe Premium Cola as follows:

…the Premium Cola community can be seen as a group of “productive activists,” e.g.,
prodactivists, that combines the roles of producers, consumers, and social activists to promote change in the capitalist market system by demonstrating how market exchange can be both successful and ethical.

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Written by katherinechen

June 29, 2015 at 3:39 pm

virtual q & a with randol contreras, author of the stick up kids, starting april 6, 2015

orgheads,

Looking for insight into the informal economy, the relationship between a lack of jobs and criminal activity, or ethnographic methods? UToronto sociologist (and CCNY and Graduate Center sociology alum!) Randol Contreras has agreed to do a virtual question and answer session here, at orgtheory, about his book The Stick Up Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream (University of California Press 2013). Read the book (ch. 1 excerpt is available here). Check back with orgtheory to post your questions during the week of April 6!

StickUpKidsbookcover

A blurb about the book:

Randol Contreras came of age in the South Bronx during the 1980s, a time when the community was devastated by cuts in social services, a rise in arson and abandonment, and the rise of crack-cocaine. For this riveting book, he returns to the South Bronx with a sociological eye and provides an unprecedented insider’s look at the workings of a group of Dominican drug robbers. Known on the streets as “Stickup Kids,” these men raided and brutally tortured drug dealers storing large amounts of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and cash.

As a participant observer, Randol Contreras offers both a personal and theoretical account for the rise of the Stickup Kids and their violence. He mainly focuses on the lives of neighborhood friends, who went from being crack dealers to drug robbers once their lucrative crack market opportunities disappeared. The result is a stunning, vivid, on-the-ground ethnographic description of a drug robbery’s violence, the drug market high life, the criminal life course, and the eventual pain and suffering experienced by the casualties of the Crack Era.

Provocative and eye-opening, The Stickup Kids urges us to explore the ravages of the drug trade through weaving history, biography, social structure, and drug market forces. It offers a revelatory explanation for drug market violence by masterfully uncovering the hidden social forces that produce violent and self-destructive individuals. Part memoir, part penetrating analysis, this book is engaging, personal, deeply informed, and entirely absorbing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by katherinechen

March 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Posted in books

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welcome, guest blogger Barry Wellman!

Folks, Barry Wellman has agreed to share his thoughts, when the “muse strikes” him, as a guest blogger at orgtheory.    Like many of our dear readers, Barry is a font of helpful insights and witty to boot.  Although he is a native New Yorker, he knows where the interesting restaurants are in Toronto and how to best get to Toronto from NYC.  As a networks and community expert, Barry has contributed numerous publications.  His latest publication is the book Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press, 2012), co-authored with Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project.

Written by katherinechen

November 14, 2013 at 2:46 am

Posted in guest bloggers

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burning man round table discussion at the society pages

Several sociologists (Matt Wray, Jon Stern, and myself) and an anthropologist (S. Megan Heller) have a round table discussion on Burning Man at the Society Pages. We’ve all done research at Burning Man, an annual temporary community in Nevada that has inspired events and organizations worldwide.

Have a peek at our discussion, which includes ideas for future studies. We discuss answers to questions such as:

Why might the demographics of the Burning Man population be of interest to researchers? For instance, there is a cultural trope that people who go to Burning Man are often marginalized individuals—outsiders in some way. Could the festival’s annual Census be used to measure this rather subjective characteristic of the population? Is there a single “modal demographic” (that is, a specific Burner “type”) or are there many? What else does the Census Lab measure (or not measure)?

and

Burning Man sometimes gets portrayed as little more than a giant rave—a psychedelic party on the playa. It is like a party in many ways, but those of us who go know that the label doesn’t begin to capture the full experience. What larger phenomena does Burning Man represent in your research? In other words, how do you categorize the event and why should we take it seriously?

Going to Burning Man? Check out the un-conference schedule. Looking to volunteer? Start with this post.

A 2003 San Francisco billboard ad for a voluntary association references Burning Man.  As Burning Man's popularity and legitimacy have increased, other organizations and individuals have sought to expropriate the Burning Man name, imagery, and output for their own use.  Photographer unknown.

(Unfortunately, this photo didn’t make it into my book because the image quality wasn’t sufficient for a black and white reprint.) A 2003 San Francisco billboard ad for a voluntary association references Burning Man. As Burning Man’s popularity has increased, other organizations and individuals have sought to expropriate the Burning Man name, imagery, and output for their own use. Photographer unknown.

Written by katherinechen

August 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm

cfp 5th Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies, Havana, Cuba, April 2-5, 2014

For those of you looking for a reason to head to Cuba and present your research, here’s your chance.

“Constructing Alternatives: How can we organize for alternative social, economic, and ecological balance?”
5th annual Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies, Havana, Cuba, April 2-5, 2014

“…the purpose of this 5th LAEMOS Colloquium is to share empirical and theoretical research on the dynamics of development, resistance, and innovation with the aim to promote alternative forms of organization in Latin American and European societies…Under the general theme of the meeting, the aim is to collect and connect a broad variety of studies, narratives and discourses on initiatives for alternative forms of development and innovation. We also welcome studies and reflections about the redefinition of boundaries, collaboration, and conflict among government, business, and civil society, in shaping social change, organizational (re-)configuration, and developmental action…

In particular, this is a Call for Papers for the following prospective sub-themes (but not limited to them):
The corporatization of politics and the politicization of corporations
The political economy of organizations
Sustainable and unsustainable tales of sustainability and social development
Alternative roles and forms of managerial action
Alternative spaces: communities, cities as models of collective agency
Transnational networks for protest and for change
Digital worlds, online forms of organization and action

Papers taking an interdisciplinary perspective on dynamics of change, innovation, power and resistance are particularly encouraged. Theoretical and empirical papers looking at alternative forms of social, economic, and ecological development from an organizational perspective are also of special interest. They may include studies that link micro level case analysis to macro level institutional and global forces, that investigate processes as well as structures, and that take a historical and contextual approach….

Deadlines:
Subtheme Proposal: July 31, 2013
Abstract submission (1,000 words): 15 November, 2013
Notification of acceptance: 15 December, 2013
Submission of full paper (6,000 words): 5 March, 2014
You are welcome to submit a subtheme proposal at laemos2014 [at] gmail.com. For more information about the conference and frequent updates please check www.laemos.com.”

Full cfp available here.

Written by katherinechen

June 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

open thread – call for questions for ESS conversation on Fri., March 22, 2013

As I posted earlier, I’ll be presiding over a conversation between George Ritzer and Carmen Sirianni from 3:30-5pm on Fri., March 22, 2013 at ESS in the Whittier Room (4th Flr) of the Boston Park Plaza hotel.

In the past several years, disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina have sparked growing interest in what both conventional and innovative organizations can (and cannot) do given conditions of uncertainty vs. certainty. Both featured scholars’ work cover the limits of particular organizing practices (i.e., Ritzer’s work on McDonaldization), as well as the potential of organized action (i.e., Sirianni’s work on collaborative governance). Thus, I’ve given this particular conversation the broad title “Organizations and Societal Resilience: How Organizing Practices Can Either Inhibit or Enable Sustainable Communities.”

What would you be interested in hearing Ritzer and Sirianni discuss about organizations and society? Please put your qs or comments in the discussion thread.

For those unfamiliar with Ritzer and Sirianni, here is some background about their work:
George Ritzer is best known for his work on McDonaldization and more recently, the spread of prosumption in which people are both producers and consumers.

J. Mike Ryan‘s interview of Ritzer about his McDonaldization work:

J. Mike Ryan’s interview of Ritzer about why we should learn about McDonaldization (corrected link):

Carmen Sirianni is known for his work on democratic governance.

A brief video of Sirianni arguing that citizens should be “co-producers” in building society.

A more extensive video of Sirianni presenting on his book Investing in Democracy: Engaging Citizens in Collaborative Governance (Brookings Press, 2009).

Written by katherinechen

March 12, 2013 at 3:21 pm

more self-managing organizations and the spread of participatory practices, part 2

Thanks to those who suggested additional examples of self-managing organizations on my previous post about self-managing organizations!  In the comments, Usman has also kindly provided a link to a documentary, The Take.  Such examples show how people use self-managing organizations to reverse economic decline or stagnation, as well as defend their community, dignity, and livelihoods.  For more examples of how grassroots organizations and democratic organizations can underpin economic revitalization, Orgheads might be interested in Jeremy Brecher‘s Banded Together: Economic Democratization in the Brass Valley (2011, University of IL Press).  Drawing on archival research, participant-observations of meetings, and interviews conducted about efforts to revitalize Western Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley in residents and workers’ interests using Alinskyite methods, Brecher delves into several case studies of reorganizing the workplace, from factory to home-care.  (See my review of Brecher’s book in Contemporary Sociology for a more detailed synopsis.)

Participatory practices are also spreading to local governance in the US.  Last fall, with the help of local organization Community Voices Heard, the Participatory Budgeting Project, and scholars and other groups, and trained volunteers such as myself, four districts in NYC experimented with participatory budgeting.  Those who live, work, or attend school in these districts could propose and then prioritize projects on how to allocate several million dollars of city funds to improve community life.  Volunteer budget delegates then developed proposals selected at the neighborhood assemblies, which they presented to the public.  Residents aged 18 years and older voted for their top choices.  Elected officials then allocated funding to these choices; some allocated additional funds for proposals that hadn’t won the popular vote.  For more info on this experiment, see a PBS segment, which includes an interview with Celina Su, one of the advisers to this experiment.  (Su published Streetwise for Street Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx, which compares Frierian and Alinskyite organizing tactics.)   See also my op-ed about this experiment and its implications for otherwise underrepresented voices in a local paper.

Think these practices might work in your hometown or organizations?  Add your comments and recommendations below.

Written by katherinechen

July 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

more self-managing organizations?

Hello fellow orgtheory readers!   Orgtheory was kind enough to invite me back for another stint of guest blogging.   For those of you who missed my original posts, you can read my 2009 series of posts on analyzing “unusual” cases, gaining research access to organizations, research, the IRB and risk, conducting ethnographic research, ethnography – what is it good for?, and writing up ethnography.

Those of you are familiar with my research know that I have studied an organization that mixed democratic or collectivist practices with bureaucratic practices.  Here’s a puzzle: although we operate in a democracy, most of our organizations, including voluntary associations, rely upon topdown bureaucracy.  However, this doesn’t mean that alternative ways of organizing can’t thrive.

Valve, the game developer behind Portal, has attracted much buzz (for example, see this article in the WSJ and various tech blogs entries, such as here and here) about its self-managing processes.  The company prides itself on having no bosses, and their employee handbook details their unusual workplace practices.  For example, instead of waiting for orders from above, workers literally vote with their feet by moving their desks to join projects that they deem worthy of their time and effort.  Similarly, anthropologist Thomas Malaby describes how Linden Lab workers, who developed the virtual reality Second Life, vote how to allocate efforts among projects proposed by workers.  Sociologist David Stark has described how workers mixed socialist and capitalist practices in a factory in post-Communist Hungary to get work jobs done, dubbing these heterarchies.

Interestingly, several of the conditions specified by Joyce Rothschild and J. Allen Whitt as allowing collectivist organizations to survive may also apply to these workplace organizations – for example, recruiting those like existing members and staying small in size.  However, my research on Burning Man suggests that these are not always necessary or desirable conditions, particularly if members value diversity.

Although these self-managing practices may seem revolutionary to contemporary workers, orgtheory readers might recall that prior to the rise of management and managerial theories such as Taylor’s scientific management, workers could self-determine the pacing of projects.  Could we make a full circle?

Any thoughts?  Know of other interesting organizations or have recommendations for research that we can learn from?  Put them in the comments.

Written by katherinechen

July 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

the elkhart project

Sean Posey Pittburgh Blast FurnaceMSNBC.com has undertaken an ongoing – multi-story – examination of how the current economic crisis is affecting one struggling manufacturing city: Elkhart, Indiana.  I am quoted in today’s story which looks at Youngstown’s decline as a cautionary tale for what can happen when a city loses its major employer (it also briefly makes reference to Allentown’s recovery as a benchmark for how to make it through a crisis of this kind).

It’s nice to get the publicity.  But it also strikes me as a very smart approach to journalism; one that reaches back to the best traditions of the Chicago School of Sociology and, of course, to the Lynds whose Middletown studies of Muncie, IN, in 1920 and 1935 were among the first (and best) community ethnographic studies spanning the city’s salad days and then on into the depression years.

I’m glad to see a major news outlet keeping at least some of the tradition alive and undertaking this kind of in-depth reporting.  But its too bad that we don’t encourage students (or junior faculty for that matter) to undertake these kinds of studies in a way that would contribute to theory and general understanding of social phenomena (major exceptions of course exist, particularly in the work of Sudhir Venkatesh and Mario Small among others). One of the things that made the ethnographic approach of the Chicago School so successful (at least in its day) was that it was a “school”; i.e., body of scholars working both in physical and intellectual proximity.  As any blogger or academic knows, its a largely solitary path we’ve taken for ourselves.  Its difficult to achieve the kind of critical mass that Chicago did in the early 20th century.  Then again, with the advent of the web, maybe than kind of thing is more possible that it has been in a while.  Here’s to hoping at least.

(Photo credit: from Sean Posey’s photo essay on Pittsburgh Steel)

Written by seansafford

June 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm