HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Rita E. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organizing, and Civil Society


Why are some civic associations more effective than others at making themselves heard, engaging members, and developing leaders? We introduce a multi-dimensional framework for analyzing the comparative effectiveness of member-based civic associations in terms of public recognition, member engagement, and leader development. Organization scholars have largely limited their research on organizational effectiveness to bureaucratic organizations with full time employees who produce goods or services. Civic associations, however, organize to assert voice or celebrate identity, rely on volunteers to do their work, conduct decentralized decision making, and govern themselves through elected leaders. Scholars of interest groups and social movements study civic associations, but they have focused primarily on the influence of external factors, such as opportunities and resources, on outcomes. As a result, the contribution of leadership and internal organizational dynamics to the effectiveness of civic associations are poorly understood. Drawing on original surveys of the leaders of local Sierra Club organizations, we use multivariate analyses to focus on the role of elected leaders, how they work together, and the activities they carry out to build capacity and conduct programs. While we find modest support for the influence of available resources and favorable environments, we find strong evidence that far more of the variation in effectiveness of civic associations can be explained by organizational leadership practices.


Andrews, Kenneth, Marshall Ganz, Matthew Baggetta, Hahrie Han, and Chaeyoon Lim. "Leadership, Membership, and Voice: Civic Associations That Work." American Journal of Sociology 115.4 (January 2010): 1191-1242.