Changed climate : networking, professionalization, and grassroots organizing in U.S. environmental organizations
Author(s)Deshmukh Towery, Nathaniel S. (Nathaniel Stephen)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Susan S. Silbey.
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My dissertation, "Changed Climate: Networking, Professionalization, and Grassroots Organizing in U.S Environmental Organizations," explores the efforts of four established U.S. environmental NGOs to change their organizational cultures and routine practices to develop grassroots activism for climate change advocacy. I find that although actors within and outside the environmental movement recognize a collective failure to influence the U.S. policy process on climate change issues, their organizations have been unable to adapt to the current political environment. My data derives from extensive participant observation, semi-structured interviews with organizational staff and experts, and statistical analysis of organizational efforts to recruit volunteer participants and develop their leadership over a two-year period. I follow four environmental organizations as they sought to create of a national climate-focused social movement. Working in collaborative partnership with other state- and national-level NGOs under the moniker of the "Climate Coalition," they initiated pilot organizing campaigns in June 2011 in three U.S. cities toward three intertwined goals of 1) building social movement power via local coalitions, 2) developing volunteer leadership capable of forging a social movement community, and 3) mobilizing the resources of that constituency in collective action to effect change. In Chapter 1, looking first at the network of organizations that comprised the Climate Coalition, I show that the network's novel configuration - a third party network administrator both coordinated the activities of the participating organizations and worked with them to set the network's strategy - produced rather than diminished the tensions inherent in inter-organizational collaboration. Turning next to the organizations themselves in Chapter 2, I explore the challenges of integrating new types of experts and expertise into existing organizational structures. In particular, I suggest that the focus on involving volunteer expertise through community organizing disrupted existing organizational notions of expertise and prevented large-scale organizational embrace of the movement building work. Finally, in Chapter 3 1 examine the experiences of the volunteers on one of the movement building campaigns, and argue that the role of the community organizer in cultivating and developing volunteer leadership is essential for understanding the long-term success of movement building work.
Thesis: Ph. D. in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 147-159).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Science, Technology and Society.