Communities of Organizations as Settings for Change


Ghosts of Organizations Past describes the challenges of using organizations to create change in places in dire need of it. Dan Ryan asks, “Why are urban communities such challenging arenas for community improvement programs?” Looking at New Haven, Connecticut and a now-defunct community-coalitions-against-drug-abuse program called Fighting Back, Ryan shows how the normal properties of normal organizations generate apparent pathologies and how the “ghosts,” or remants, of past organizations, both inhibited and enhanced Fighting Back's chances of success.

Ryan draws on concepts from the study of organizations, social capital, and social networks to address questions such as “What kind of thing is a community?” and “Why are organizations such awkward community partners?” He provides a social organizational explanation for problems - usually interpreted as personal incompetence, turf wars, greed, or corruption - that will be familiar to anyone who has been involved in community programs.

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About the Author Dan Ryan is Kathryn P. Hannam Associate Professor at Mills College and Adjunct Professor of Technology and Social Science in the Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation at U.S.C.

Table of Contents


Part I: From Opportunity to Disaster (and Back Again)
1. The Ghosts of Organizations Past

Part II: Disaster and Opportunity
2. From Disaster to Opportunity
3. From Opportunity to Disaster

Part III: Communities and Organizations
4. What Kind of Thing Is Community?
5. What Kind of Thing Is an Organization?
6. Doing Things with Organizations in Communities

Part IV: Organizing Organizations
7. Doing Things with Organizations: The Cost of Organizational Diversity
8. Doing Things with Organizations: The Cost of System
9. Networks of Garbage Cans: The Amplification of Irrationality
10. Networks and Calendar Noise

Part V: Social Organizational Junkyards
11. Community as Organizational Junkyard
12. Why Can’t Organizations Be Like Us?