Community Foundations as Network Conveners: Structuring Collective Agency for Child Education and Development System Impact

Donna Sedgwick, Robin H. Lemaire, Jessica Wirgau, Lauren K. McKeague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

The resource investment and flexibility necessary to support the development of collective agency among autonomous organizational actors can be substantial. Public agencies, with their rigid budget cycles and regulatory burdens, often struggle with providing the resources needed to forge this type of system building to address complex community issues. Community foundations, as anchor institutions in communities, exhibit financial and social power, flexibility, and a reputation for broad community interests that position them to be such conveners. Framing our examination with structuration theory, we conducted a longitudinal mixed methods action research project from Fall 2015 to Spring 2019 to document how a community foundation dislodged schemas and convened a purpose-oriented network to forge collective agency. Data collection included surveying 40 system providers before the launching of the network and 49 providers 3 yr later, interviews with 10 network participants, and field observations of 21 network meetings. Network analysis was employed to examine the changes to the system while qualitative methods were used to analyze the processes behind those changes. The implications of this study are that emphasizing the resources and processes that contribute to building collective action broadens perspectives about which organizations may be well suited to convening networks in the public sphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

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