Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Educational Leadership PhD

First Advisor

James A. Tucker

Second Advisor

Loretta B. Johns

Third Advisor

David Penner

Abstract

Problem. During the past 30 years, Americans have steadily reduced their participation in the traditional forms of community involvement, such as clubs, associations, and organizations, that bring people together to effectively pursue a shared objective. In this postmodern society, leaders of community and nonprofit organizations find they are asking themselves difficult questions about the most effective methods of fulfilling their mission and simultaneously meeting members' changing needs. Participatory volunteer-run organizations, such as a local branch or chapter of a national organization, face many challenges, making it hard to establish and maintain there organizations. They demand great energy of leaders, are vulnerable to moderate changes in their environments, and must rely on the good intentions of their members to get the work done. The same conditions that make these organizations difficult to study are at the heart of their existence. The shift from association to advocacy has been recognized as evidence that people are still interested in collective concerns, but that they are developing new methods of involvement that better suit the demands of a fast-paced, contemporary world.

Purpose of the Study. My purpose in this study was to design, implement, and assess the initial change and growth of a local voluntary organization, the Frankenmuth Area American Association of University Women Branch.

Method. I used participatory-action research to design, implement, and assess the initial organizational change in the Frankenmuth Area American Association of University Women (AAUW). The history and culture of AAUW, the community of Frankenmuth, significant aspects of social change, feminism, and organizational change were studied. Through action and reflection, three learning cycles were identified during an 11-month study period. The decisions made by leaders of the organization during the study were characterized according to eight key themes to determine whether the decisions were made from an organization-centered or a member-centered paradigm.

Results. During the first research cycle, the decision-making by the organization leaders showed a predominance of an organization-paradigm. In 10 of the 12 evidence indicators (75%), the group responded by honoring the organization instead of the members. During Cycle 2, the shift to more of a member-centered focus began to take place. Sixteen Cycle 2, the shift to more of a member-centered focus began to take place. Sixteen instances are offered as evidence of the decision-making mind-set relating to the Frankenmuth AAUW, with only 62%, as opposed to 75% from Cycle 1, supporting an organization-centered paradigm. The profound shift from an organizational-centered paradigm to a member-centered paradigm approach tool place during Cycle 3 when thirteen out of the 15 evidence incidents (87%) reflected a new approach to thinking from a member-centered paradigm.

Conclusions. Understanding cultural and environmental influences in addition to recognizing the decision-making paradigm of organizational leaders are valuable when seeking organizational change. A nostalgic desire to maintain hierarchical, often ineffective, organizations, redirects energy, time, and resources that could be used to further the organizational mission and add value to members' lives. This study concludes that the ability to integrate newfound awareness may be the essence of what it will take for community organizations to grow, change, and evolve.

Subject Area

Women--Societies and clubs.

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