This study frames the international disability movement – NGOs, foreign donors, and transnational networks focused on promoting the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – as an organizational environment. As the movement expands into the Global South, it actively pressures local grassroots associations to adopt a new organizational model in order to become membership-based advocacy organizations. Many groups, however, are embedded in local civic environments that expect them to act as self-help and social support organizations. As such, grassroots associations are caught between two organizational environments, each promoting different models and practices.
This analysis draws upon 18 months of participant observation and 69 interviews gathered from a local coalition of seven grassroots disability associations in Nicaragua. This ethnographic approach is combined with sociological institutionalism, an analysis that emphasizes the way organizations conform to organizational models that spread across a field.
The local associations responded in a variety of ways to the advocacy model promoted by the international movement. Organizations either conformed, resisted, or developed hybrid organizational models on the basis of internal characteristics that determined how they straddled the two organizational environments.
This paper highlights the way international models may be ineffective in local environments that have civic traditions and lower levels of governmental capacity than found in the West. Some disability associations, however, will creatively combine local and international models to create new initiatives that make a positive impact in the lives of persons with disabilities at the grassroots.
Meyers, S. (2014), "Disabled Persons Associations at the Crossroads of Two Organizational Environments: Grassroots Groups as Part of an International Movement and Local Civil Society", Environmental Contexts and Disability (Research in Social Science and Disability, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-31. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-354720140000008002
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