Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Lone Wolves vs. Teams

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Lone Wolves vs. Teams

Article excerpt

LEADERSHIP

Civic associations have two major roles: training citizens in the skills of democracy and pushing to enact their agenda into policy. But "Are organizations that are effective at developing their leaders also more effective at advocating for their members in the public arena?" asks Hahrie Han, a political scientist at Wellesley College. A recent study brings the two strands of civic association research together, showing that when advocacy organizations teach civic skills and build community, they are not only creating better citizens- they also are helping the organization achieve its policy goals by giving its members voice.

Han and her co-authors examined the internal workings of local chapters of the Sierra Club in 2003. Some chapters operate on a "lone wolf" model: an activist who is passionate about an issue works tirelessly on its behalf. The lone wolf "just does everything him- or herself without interacting with other people," says Han, and sometimes wins. Other chapters, like the one in Loma Prieta, Calif., "try to advance their policy goals in ways that simultaneously invest in the capacities and skills of their members." Those chapters, says Han, "not only were able to accomplish policy outcomes this year, but also have a strong set of assets moving forward."

When the Loma Prieta chapter got involved with the Sierra Club's national "Cool Cities" campaign to encourage local government action on climate change, it recruited volunteers and trained them to be leaders. …

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