Was my thesis a ginormous waste of time and money? (Thesis Part I, Introduction)

Quite a few folks have expressed an interest about my thesis. Some, in fact, even ventured to read it. ::gasp!:: Perhaps they are just humoring me.

Even if that’s the case, I think my thesis does cover some important ground for small nonprofit organizations, and there is some information I would really like to share.

What’s the Problem?

Nonprofits everywhere are struggling and buckling down. It doesn’t take graduate level research to prove that. People are volunteering and engagement in philanthropy is increasing, but due to corruption and scandal, some people have also lost a little faith in the nonprofit industry. Donations are down. Societal needs are changing. Nonprofits need to adapt to these needs and continue to provide services while they undergo change. To put it simply, nonprofits are also expected to do far more with far less.

How, exactly, are we supposed to do this?

My thesis:  I came to the conclusion that a heterarchy is an exceptional alternative model for volunteer driven nonprofit organizations particularly in an innovation society. I demonstrate this by first showing that hierarchies are a hegemonic standard, one that does not fully satisfy the needs of volunteer-driven nonprofit organizations. Alternative models can be introduced, and by evaluating an actual heterarchical model I show that a heterarchical structure is possible in practice, as well as in theory.

Over the next few weeks I plan to write about:

  • Why the traditional structure (the hierarchy) is not adequate, particularly for small, volunteer-driven organizations
  • The current landscape for nonprofits
  • New types of non-hierarchical business structures
  • Why new models will work better today than the traditional hierarchy
  • Why this is particularly important for arts organizations
  • Implementing this at my own organization
  • How implementing this structure helped us both survive the recession and improve our services.

I’ll follow up to all of this by posting my full thesis, in case anybody is included to read further.  Please - feel free to ask questions as I go. Disagree with me at any point? Please let me know.

I think this is a huge issue and nonprofits aren’t talking about it or planning for it enough.

I think there will be a crisis in leadership if large nonprofits do not soon begin to change ageist and gender biased practices.

--- Years ago, a lot of young people (like myself) were the advocates for technology and innovation in our organization. We were the natural online social networkers. We suggested our organizations do a better job online. We were largely ignored.

Nonprofit journals, organizations, and magazines must do a better job of giving a voice to small nonprofits and really embracing innovative ideas - before the curve instead of after.