Community Organizations: Studies in Resource Mobilization and Exchange

Community Organizations: Studies in Resource Mobilization and Exchange

Community Organizations: Studies in Resource Mobilization and Exchange

Community Organizations: Studies in Resource Mobilization and Exchange

Synopsis

Local nonprofit organizations are often small, loosely structured, and democratically governed, and therefore do not fit conveniently into traditional theories of organizational behavior that are rooted in administrative science and bureaucratic structure. Treating community organizations as parts of larger systems--organizational fields or ecologies and communities--this collection of papers presents various perspectives on local nonprofit organizations from the standpoint of organizational theory. The essays draw on an array of methods and theoretical approaches taken from population ecology theories of organizations, laying the foundation for the structural analysis of community organizations.

Excerpt

In recent years organizational theory has more and more moved away from the view of organizations as autonomous, highly structured, rational social machines which prevailed in the early days of administrative science. The more we study organizations, the more impressed we are with the unpredictability of events, with the possibilities for subordinates to challenge the authority of their superiors, and with the permeability of organizational boundaries. Indeed, most of the attributes which defined organizations as attractive objects for study thirty years ago today seem like abstractions which only occasionally fit the organizations we see in real life. In response, organizational theory has sought to grapple with loose coupling within organizations, ambiguity in planning, and the dependence of organizations on their environments.

If this is true of large, complex organizations like corporations, government bureaucracies, or educational institutions, the problem is magnified when we turn our attention to community organizations. In this book, we use the term "community organization" loosely. In some chapters we are referring to large institutions like museums, symphony orchestras, or United Ways. In other chapters we are concerned with community self-help organizations that generally are small, voluntaristic, and loosely structured. In all cases, however, these are organizations which prosper by immersing themselves in local community life and acquiring resources by working in close coordination with other, usually more institutionalized organizations. Sometimes they do this by seeking grants from foundations, corporations, or from the government--as Milofsky and Romo describe in their study of funding arenas. Other times they do this by building networks of supporters, perhaps capitalizing upon preexisting social networks among members of the community elite--as in Galaskiewicz and Rauschenbach's study of community elite networks.

Some of the chapters in this book simply describe in detail how particular community organizations work, such as the chapters on the United Way by Deborah Kaplan Polivy and by Susan Rose-Ackerman and a chapter on child care by Susan Rose-Ackerman. Most of the chapters, however, attempt to create new theoretical frameworks by which concepts from the contemporary literature on complex organizations can be applied to community organizations. This is not a simple act of rewriting what has already been articulated for more "important" organizations. In most cases, community organizations present new challenges because--as Milofsky . . .

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