Voices and Echoes for the Environment: Public Interest Representation in the 1990s and Beyond

By Ronald G. Shaiko | Go to book overview

7
Organizational Leadership and
Grassroots Empowerment

Reinvigorating Public Interest Representation in the
United States

For it so falls out, That what we have we prize not to the worth Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost, Why, then we rack the value, then we find The virtue that possession would not show us, Whiles it was ours.

—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE,Much Ado About Nothing, act 4, scene 1

The public interest sector in the United States has indeed become a major political enterprise, with more than four billion dollars raised and spent annually on maintaining thousands of organizations and providing political representation for millions of citizens. Today, the public interest sector is dramatically different from the loosely organized social movements of three decades ago. As is evident from the analyses in the preceding chapters, the organizational transformations that have occurred have raised many questions regarding the representative nature of these transformed political enterprises, in particular about the linkages between organizational voices and membership echoes. Public interest organizations are attempting to formulate strategies that allow them to maintain their organizational infrastructures as well as to provide some form of public interest representation. In years past, the measure of public interest representation was the presence or absence of an organizational process and structure that linked leaders with their supporters. As the public interest sector has evolved over the last three decades, this measure is no longer a valid indicator of political representation in the contemporary political environment. Organizational structures and processes may provide some indication of

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