- Organizing for Social Partnership: Higher Education in Cross-Sector Collaboration
A new addition to the literature on service-learning, David Siegel's Organizing for Social Partnership is an extensive case study of the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program in Business for minority youth that involves a dozen universities, several dozen corporations, a few nonprofit organizations, and a federal government agency. Like its predecessor Building Partnerships for Service-Learning (Jacoby, 2003) and its contemporary Partnerships for Service-Learning: Impacts on Communities and Students (Kelshaw, Lazarus, & Minier, 2009), Siegel's book sets out to examine successful collaborations between institutions of higher education and local communities and identify key organizational factors of that success. Unlike other books on the topic, Organizing for Social Partnership offers a well-built conceptual framework that is steeped in organization theory and employed to chart a course for future intersectional social-justice-oriented projects.
The book consists of three parts. Part 1 lays the conceptual groundwork by bringing together three bodies of literature: organizational perspectives on boundaries, scholarship on the role of higher education in maintaining the public good and social justice, and research on cross-sector university partnerships with government, industry, and nonprofit organizations. The author's theoretical affinities are made manifest here. Siegel's focus on changing institutionalized values and practices and the way "we tend to solve problems—to identify them, frame them, weigh alternatives for addressing them, and finally select what we deem to be appropriate solutions" (p. 5) draws on the new institutionalist perspective in organization studies. His use of the verb form "organizing" and the notions of mental models and schemes is infused with Karl Weick's theory of organizing.
Siegel views the possibilities of inter sectional collaboration as an issue of expanding, crossing, erasing, and blurring of boundaries between and among organizations, sectors, and nation states. The increasingly global phenomenon of boundarylessness, he con tends, transforms academic disciplines and universities by opening them to hybrid forms of knowledge, inquiry, purpose, and structure. The resulting interdisciplinarity and cross-sector partnerships for research and social change transform the landscape of higher education and in time lead to a paradigm shift, an unraveling of what Siegel calls "proprietary mentality" (p. 68) that bars institutions from taking a stake in a social issue in the public interest.
Part 2 describes the author's methods of data collection and analysis, introduces a brief history of the LEAD Program, and provides a detailed examination of the Program's effects as well as actors, their reasoning, decision-making, and experiences. From transaction cost economics and resource dependence to organizational learning, conflict management, and cultural symbolism, to name but a few, Siegel's sampling of multiple theoretical approaches to aid his analysis is both impressive and dizzying. The multiple lenses offer different angles at the diverse organizational rationales and processes behind the LEAD success, but [End Page 760] it is not clear how traditionally irreconcilable positivist and poststructuralist views fit into a coherent framework.
Siegel's analysis illuminates the operation of two logics—market and social justice—behind the LEAD initiative. In an insightful account of the actors' sensemaking about LEAD, the author shows how organizations' multiple individual and collective agendas produced varying interpretations of the Program, which in turn determined how the Program was structured, implemented, and sustained. As Siegel explains, only when participating universities, businesses, and nonprofits recognized the relevance of the initiative to their own individual needs for a pipeline of minority students did the partnership begin to make practical sense and receive participants' commitment and resources. Thus, the academic goals of the Program were supplemented with market considerations for a well-prepared and diverse applicant pool for university business programs and work force for business and industry.
In final Part 3, the author revisits organization studies and social justice scholarship introduced in Part 1 in order to propose a conceptually novel approach to cross-sector social partnerships as social movement organizations. Such an approach, he contends, will require a more active, dedicated, and emotionally invested civic engagement...