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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How participants valued and used resources in the start-up phase of a feminist community organization Pinnington, Elizabeth

Abstract

Feminist community organizing involves members of a geographic locale or social network coming together to address a shared issue or problem affecting the lives of women in order to find a collective solution (Dominelli, 1995; Israel, Checkoway, Schulz & Zimmerman, 1994; Selsky, 1991). While the organizational theory literature has traditionally focused on the exchange of financial and material resources as the main reason for forming partnerships (Gulati, 1998; Kanter, 1989; Oliver, 1991), a growing body of feminist literature (Acker, 1995; Brown, 1992; Eisenstein, 1995; Feree and Martin, 1995; Reinelt, 1994) and community development literature (Dominelli, 1995, Israel et al., 1994; Kretzman & McKnight, 1993; Minkler & Wallerstein, 1997; Selsky, 1991) emphasizes the importance of other types of resources such as skills, lived experience, knowledge, information and social networks. In addition, feminist collectivity offers a promising alternative to hierarchy in terms of valuing and mobilizing the diverse pool of resources brought to a feminist community-based initiative by participants from varied social locations (Callahan, 1997; Dominelli, 1995; Reinelt, 1994). The purpose of my study was to investigate participant understandings of the resources they brought to a feminist community organizing initiative designed to increase the access of women on low-incomes to community recreation, and how emergent organizational practices affected resource utilization. A case study analysis of 'Women Organizing Activities for Women' (WOAW) that is comprised of a diverse group of women on low incomes, community partners, and university-based researchers was conducted. The research methods for this project included the analysis data obtained in Interactive Research Meetings (n=3) with each of the WOAW participant groups to determine individual and collective resources. Observations of Phase I WOAW meetings (n=9) were recorded using fieldnotes and verbatim transcripts and served as the data source for examining patterns of resource utilization given emergent feminist collective organizing practices. Fieldnotes and transcripts were analyzed using Atlas.ti data computer software. Participants from the three groups identified over 200 examples of resources they were bringing to WOAW and described a number of connections between resources, as well as multiple meanings of single resource types, which differed based on their roles and locations in the organization. These findings contribute to the literature by linking resource identification in new ways to the process of resource utilization. The results also contribute to practice by challenging assumptions about the types of resources brought by different collaborators and by identifying organizational practices that enhance or inhibit resource utilization. My analysis revealed that there was ambiguity between participant groups about who was bringing what resources, which led to assumptions being made about who would take on certain tasks in the group. I also found that while feminist collective organizing practices enabled participants to name and share resources in an empowering and respectful environment, that time constraints, ambiguity about roles and participants' lack of familiarity with the process were challenges to mobilizing available resources.

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