How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century


Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

DHow signHahrie Han, Wellesley College, Sarah Hodgdon, Sierra Club, Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, and Archon Fung (Moderator), Academic Dean and Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship

About the Event
Why are some civic associations better than others at getting – and keeping – people involved in activism? In this book talk, Hahrie Han will describe how she used in-person observations, surveys, and field experiments to compare organizations with strong records of engaging people in health and environmental politics to those with weaker records. To build power, she finds, civic associations need quality and quantity (or depth and breadth) of activism. They need lots of people to take action and also a cadre of leaders to develop and execute that activity. Yet, models for how to develop activists and leaders are not necessarily transparent. How can civic associations build the power they want and support a healthy democracy? How do the most active associations blend mobilizing and organizing to transform their members’ motivations and capacities for involvement?

Read the first chapter of How Organizations Develop Activists

Watch a Video Recording of the Event

View Photos of the Event

Listen to an Audio Recording of the Event

About the Speakers

Hahrie Han is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, and was a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Scholar at Harvard University (2009-2011). She specializes in the field of American politics, focusing particularly on the role that civic associations play in mobilizing participation in politics and policy advocacy. She is the author of How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2014), Groundbreakers: How Obama's 2.1 Million Activists Transformed Field Campaigns in America (co-authored with Elizabeth McKenna, forthcoming 2014), and Moved to Action: Motivation, Participation, and Inequality in American Politics (Stanford University Press, 2009). Hahrie’s work on participation, civic associations, primary elections, and congressional polarization has been published widely and was awarded the 2013 Outstanding Academic Publication on Membership Organizations Award by the Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education, and Engagement. Han has also consulted and done research with a wide range of civic and political organizations around the world.

As Sierra Club’s National Program Director, Sarah Hodgdon oversees the organization’s national campaigns including Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, and Our Wild America, as well as the Club’s political, outings, and partnerships programs with labor, environmental justice groups, and youth. To accomplish campaign and programmatic goals, Sarah manages Sierra Club’s teams of lobbyists, organizers, and lawyers. She leads the organization’s Staff Diversity Team and serves on the founding body of the BEA Initiative, which works to create a more inclusive, connective, and winning environmental movement. The Diversity Journal recently called her, “A Woman Worth Watching” for her leadership role at Sierra Club. Prior to joining Sierra Club, Sarah was Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina based forest protection organization from 2000-2006. She began her grassroots organizing career in 1993 with Green Corps and also served as Recruitment Director for the group from 1996-2000. She is one of four Green Corps’ graduates to have received the David Brower Alumni Achievement Award. Sarah has a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University as well as a certificate from the university’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. In 1993, she was awarded the McKaig Leadership Award for Outstanding Student Leadership.

Jane J. Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, is the author of Beyond Adversary Democracy, an empirical and normative study of face-to-face democracy, and the award-winning Why We Lost the ERA, a study of anti-deliberative dynamics in social movements based on organizing for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She is also editor or coeditor of the volumes Beyond Self-Interest, Feminism, and Oppositional Consciousness. Her current work includes studies of representation, democratic deliberation, everyday activism, and the public understanding of collective action problems.

Suggested Reading
Challenges to Democracy Blog, First Chapter of How Organizations Develop Activists by Hahrie Han. “In the excerpt below, Han acknowledges that as we enter an increasingly digital age, it appears on the surface that civic engagement is now easier and perhaps on the rise. Yet in practice membership and activist organizations – even the largest and best known – are wielding less power and influence.”, Get Involved Today – Take Action for the Climate (Sarah Hodgdon). “I'm excited to see thousands of Americans speak up nationwide at events like the roundtable in Ohio. Just yesterday, the Sierra Club (with the help of some exiled polar bears) delivered more than 500,000 comments to the White House calling for no oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.”

RadioBoston, How The ‘People’s Climate March’ Could Translate Into Political Action. Interview with Hahrie Han about the recent People’s Climate March in New York City.