Title page for ETD etd-04142009-040508

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Howard, Lesley
URN etd-04142009-040508
Title Membership representation in the issue-focus selection process of national environmental nonprofit organizations
Degree Master of Urban Affairs
Department Urban Affairs and Planning
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Browder, John O. Committee Chair
Rich, Richard C. Committee Member
Stephenson, Max O. Jr. Committee Member
  • Pressure groups
Date of Defense 1994-05-05
Availability restricted
Public interest groups, environmental nonprofit organizations (ENPOs) among them, play a large role in the formulation and implementation of public policy. Much of their legitimacy comes from their claim that they represent their members' interests. This thesis examines ENPO communication forms to ascertain whether and how ENPOs seek their members' opinions, and if so, whether or not those opinions influence the ENPOs' issue-focus selection process, which is the issues on which the ENPO's financial and human resources will be expended.

The research addresses these questions at two related levels of representation: internal to the organization (e. g., how do ENPOs seek their members' opinions) and inter - organizational (e.g., what role do ENPOs play in the political arena). On the level of internal democracy, elitist theory and Seymour Martin Lipset's "factors that encourage organizational democracy" provide a base for interpreting the results. At the inter-organizational level both pluralist and elitist theories of democratic governance provide the base for interpretation of the results. Finally, speculation is made about ENPO membership as "symbolic" political participation

The results suggest that support for both pluralist and elitist interpretation of both internal and inter-organizational democracy may be appropriate. All ENPOs use a variety of communication forms to inform their members, and all ENPO survey respondents stated that they are open to membership suggestions. The findings also suggest that another appropriate interpretation of ENPO membership may be that membership is a symbolic purchase of political participation.

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