Posted April 24th 2010 at 12:17 pm by
in Collaborative Thesis Project

Boston, MA: Movement Building & Changing Energy Policy

Eric Mackres, above, is one of six members of the CoLaborative Thesis Group.  All six theses examine New Strategies for an Old Crisis: Regenerating Local Economies, each in a different American City.

On April 22nd 2010, masters student Eric Mackres led a discussion of his thesis, Collaborative and Action-Based Framing Processes for Social Movement Organizations. About twenty people came to hear his research findings.  His work was based on several months worth of observations, as well as in-depth interviews with members of Community Labor United (CLU), the Green Justice Coalition, and other stakeholders involved in Massachusetts energy efficiency and economic development initiatives.

Community Labor United is an organization that works with community-based organizations and labor unions to run campaigns on issues of mutual interest in the Boston area.  As part of this work CLU was instrumental in convening the Green Justice Coalition (GJC), which acts on a broader state-wide scale and has become deeply involved with the work of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council.

Mackres framed the discussion around his central research question, “why have social movement organizations begun to engage in collaborative framing?” and a detailed explanation of the elements contained in his hypothesis that “some social movement organizations have begun to use collaborative framing processes to address uncertainty in emergent environments.”  Mackres is interested in how uncertain policy environments, such as the shifting energy efficiency regulatory structure in Massachusetts, might provide space for organizations to bring together different action strategies.

One of the key conclusions he drew from this analysis was that CLU and the GJC were finding ways to scale up their internal processes for decision making and campaigning, so that they could be used with other organizations as the web of stakeholders grew around the shifting energy efficiency regulatory structures.  As the policy and regulatory environment changed around them, these organizations found innovative ways to think about the problems and began to approach the work from a variety of angles.

The session concluded with a lively discussion between the attendees regarding the relationship of the case studies presented to the larger theoretical frameworks and literature on organizational behavior.  The question was raised as to whether the focus of the work should be on why these organizations changed their behavior, or how they changed their behavior.  There was also significant discussion regarding who exactly the target audience was for this work, and whether the definition of a target audience might help to determine whether the case studies should be used to support theories of organizational change or to create recommendations for organizations working within the field of energy efficiency regulation.  Mackres will use these comments to form his final draft, which is due in a few weeks.

Article by Anya Brickman Raredon. Photo by Danielle Martin.

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