Abstract: Hybrid Models for Social Change: Legitimacy in Community-Based Hybrid Nonprofits (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

542P Hybrid Models for Social Change: Legitimacy in Community-Based Hybrid Nonprofits

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Rachel Wells, MSW, MUP, Doctoral Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Theresa Anasti, MSW, Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose:This paper examines hybrid nonprofits in a large west-coast city that integrate both service provision and community organizing into their mission. These types of organizations are involved with service provision that could be considered political (Hyde 1992; Gates 2014), and as a result, play an important role at the neighborhood level. However, hybrid organizations encounter different uncertainties and face different relationships compared to traditional nonprofit organizations (Minkoff 2002). Service-organizing hybrids may lose legitimacy as a result of branching out from conventional expectations of a traditional nonprofit organization. However, as authors highlight the unique form of service provision for a hybrid service-organizing nonprofit (Meyer 2010), a hybrid organization’s often political approach to service provision could be an example of a niche where hybrids distinguish themselves from other organizations. This paper examines the following questions: 1) How are hybrid community-based nonprofits seen as distinct from non-hybrid community-based nonprofits? and 2) How does having a hybrid identity affect organizational legitimacy?

Methodology: Between Fall 2013 and Spring 2015, the first author conducted semi-structured interviews with senior staff at 18 community-based organizations in one neighborhood.  This sample includes a range of organizations from nonprofits that started as a result of neighborhood organizing to branch offices of larger nonprofits, providing an opportunity to compare different organizations. Through interviews and website descriptions, the first author identified three types of organizations: service-organizing hybrids, non-hybrid service organizations that participate in advocacy/organizing, and service organizations that do not participate in advocacy/organizing. Interviews discussed organizational history, mission, challenges and strategies with acquiring resources, and key partnerships and relationships; the concept of legitimacy came out through analysis of the interviews. All interviews were transcribed and coded with Atlas.ti software. Analysis included memo writing, mapping relationships between organizations and comparisons between and within organizational categories.

Findings: Through their combination of services and organizing, hybrids have a unique form of service delivery, engaging in service delivery as a form of social change. A key feature among hybrids in this sample was an identity of ‘grassroots’ and community-driven. With this grassroots identity, hybridity was not a penalty for the organizations. Rather, hybridity connected to the idea of grassroots was a source of legitimacy. Moreover, non-hybrid organizations were able to gain legitimacy as a community-based organization through their relationships with hybrids. While many community-based organizations draw on ‘grassroots’ legitimacy, funders may have a specific idea of ‘grassroots’ and favor a less confrontational style of community organizing, so we also discuss conditions and organizing constraints for legitimacy.

Conclusions and Implications: Hybrid nonprofits provide an example of integrating services with politics and a unique model for delivering services to vulnerable populations when the act of providing services is political (Hyde 1992; Gates 2014). For organizations that serve increasingly vulnerable and marginalized populations, it is critical to understand the implications of this hybrid model. Specifically, this project sheds light on how these organizations are influenced by legitimacy and category expectations, and the challenges that nonprofits face in delivering services and working for social change.