Don’t leave me this way….

What do we know of why people leave (social movement organisations) and don’t come back?

How do we find out, since almost by definition they aren’t around to ask (and would they tell you anyway, and would they know all the reasons anyway?)

I have some ideas, but am keen to hear other people’s experiences, ideas etc…

Don’t leave me hanging out here folks…



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2 Responses to Don’t leave me this way….

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Cynicism about leaders repeatedly being willing to cut weak deals with government and extractive industries, i.e. terms that were clearly not deals that were consistent with direction from the members or the active volunteer base that was doing key work.

    I know of this reason as the main cause of some of the best volunteers giving up on our organization during the 1990’s and the environmental movement in general here because people told me this was what undercut their motivation to do the work, and why they left. This was when I was support staff.

    It was leadership that refused to engage sufficiently with their ‘caucus’ (to put it in political party terms) that eventually didn’t have anybody behind them willing to do the work of campaigning when they turned around to see if anyone is still following.

    These are activists that fail to recognize it is not our job to go in the closed room with industry and gov’t rep’s and cut the deal… that this actually undercuts citizen-based democracy where governments are supposed to represent and be accountable to citizens…*not* to ENGO’s or other groups… and thus these activists eventually undercut their own support in their organization and in society.

    Governments are elected to decide the terms of policy/budgets/legislation. It is not ENGO’s job to engage in corporatist decision-making processes to decide policy. We inform, educate, critique, advocate for change toward ideals, toward and for the public interest.

    Nor were we NGO’s elected by the public; so we don’t actually have democratic authorisation for any endorsement we provide to the deals we cut. Further, when NGO’s accept the corporatist model, and are willing to take the *expert* elite role in actual practice in *closed policy networks* (which are corporatist forms of governance) NGO’s are inadvertantly hollowing out democracy by marginalizing the citizenry into secondary participants in their own collective governance.

    Corporatism in the sense I’m discussing is not simple business corporations influence over government. It is a model of decision-making where groups negotiate policy and budgets and legislation directly with other groups and government manages and participates in these negotiations.

    And ENGO’s that themselves don’t have democratic representative governance systems, actually then they don’t even have members with the means to hold their leaders accountable. Which is the case with most in North America.

    Thus the volunteers working for an organization whose leaders constantly fail to push for what ought to be end up voting on the legitimacy of that leadership with their two-feet as you so often put it.

  2. Sam Gunsch says:

    What I’ve described goes well beyond the specific request to explain why people leave organizations into a political analysis.

    I owe an explanation that I didn’t provide in the first post to anyone who has taken the time to read my comment.

    I offer this because it is my growing sense from reading the history of movements in the 20th century that a key structural explanation for movements disappearing or becoming relatively impotent derives from corporatism (interest-based politics) replacing democratic governance based on citizens and the public interest.

    And the takeover of corporatism of our governance systems means politics are increasingly less responsive to public opinion, thus causing a constant drag or degradation of morale, of the hope of citizens desiring to change society on environmental issues or any other sector of policy.

    It’s not just that business corporations own political parties. Its the system of governance as well that actually reinforces corporate ability to portray their control over policy as legitimate.

    If corporate leaders at the table with ENGO leaders can only arrive at lowest common denominator policies or no policies, and gov’t just goes with corporate interest, then people eventually get so dismayed at what’s happening, they quit.

    The first thing to do is for movement leadership to stop going to the table when they build sufficient support with the citizenry, that government invites them to the process. Thus creating corporatist decision-making processes. Groups to groups.

    People give up trying to participate in democracy because it appears to make so little difference. So they leave their movements, thier NGO’s and stop voting.

    And the leadership of movements and org’s has played a significant role in creating this situation, and continues to do so here in Canada. Constantly seeking insider status at the table, rather than working with their membership, supporters, and the citizenry to change the politics.

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