Abstract: Shifting Identity Domains: Hybridity and Transformation in a Social Movement Agency (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Shifting Identity Domains: Hybridity and Transformation in a Social Movement Agency

Friday, January 17, 2020
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Cheryl Hyde, PhD, Associate Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Background/Purpose: Scholarship on hybrid organizations focuses on the interplay between various internal and external traits such as mission, governance and stakeholders (Groh, 2014; Smith, 2014). This presentation delineates competing characteristics within a nonprofit agency as it evolved from a small rape crisis center into a comprehensive anti-violence organization. The term “identity domain” is suggested as a conceptual device that captures the amalgam of ideology, goals and sector affiliations of an organization. Identity domains help focus the analysis of interacting, and shifting, internal and external dynamics in hybrid organizations.

Rape crisis centers can be classified as social movement agencies (SMAs); the pursuit of social change – ending sexual violence, is accomplished primarily through service provision (Baker & Bevaqua, 2017). As hybrid organizations, SMAs balance service-oriented and social movement missions, processes and outcomes (Gates, 2014; author, 2000; Minkoff, 2002). Research often highlights how the agency focus coopts that of the social movement, and usually is interpreted as a negative change outcome. Yet this conclusion should be problematized as this kind of change often means survival and sustainability, albeit in a different organizational form.

Methods: Findings presented here are from a longitudinal case study of Haven, an agency located in the central United States. Data include organizational member interviews (taped and transcribed), organizational documents, and media accounts. Data coding and analysis followed the constant comparative method (Charmaz, 2006; Corbin & Strauss, 2008). The agency and individuals were de-identified for confidentiality; some characteristics were altered to protect survivors of sexual assault.

Results: Haven, founded in the mid-1970s by the local National Organization for Women chapter (liberal feminist organization), initially focused on sexual assault education but soon expanded to victim support (hot line, counseling, legal advocacy). Through funding initiatives, stakeholder mandates and two mergers (1993 and 2012), Haven transformed into an anti-violence organization designed to “end abuse for everyone.” A large bureaucratic nonprofit with over 250 male and female employees, Haven now provides counseling, education, and legal support for victims and families on issues related to rape, domestic violence and child abuse. The Nonprofit Times and a local newspaper both named Haven a “best place to work.”

The case study revealed three identity domains: political (liberal feminism), professionalism (training/credentials), and processing (client services). As Haven evolved, the professionalism and processing identity domains grew and supplanted the political (Mehrotra, et al, 2016; Maier, 2008; Wies, 2008). These dominant domains framed resource development, marketing, environmental relations and especially decisions to merge. The professional and processing domains also disproportionately shaped internal operations including staffing, leadership, and decision-making. Specifically, this involved the unique participation of men, not just as board members and educational staff, but as service providers for sexual assault victims regardless of gender; training and staffing needs superseded a gendered (feminist) analysis (Casey & Smith, 2010; Drury & Kaiser, 2014; Martin, 2006).

Conclusions/Implications: This case study contributes to scholarship on hybrid organizations, particularly social movement agencies. By examining hybrid elements, such as competing identity domains, we better understand factors that impact organizational development, legitimacy and sustainability.