Late Night Dissertation Update

So it’s late Friday night, well actually it’s early Saturday morning, but I just can’t seem to sleep. Perhaps it’s because I’m back on this horrible sleeping schedule trying to work on this little dissertation thing. Whatever it is I decided to post an update of where I’m at, and for me it’s neutral! That seems like a weird way of putting it but it has taking me all week to feel this way. I ran into some roadblocks this week trying to discover how to measure sustainability in a somewhat objective way. Again for those who are new I am interested in understanding what makes a nonprofit organization sustainable, and not just eco-friendly (which is important) but sustainable in a way that allows the organization to keep operating. Look back at my previous post for a better definition.

I have spent the last 3 months trying to identify what makes an organization sustainable and how to measure that. I’m neutral because although I seem to have come to a dead end, it’s only for now. That is, I have spent 3 months researching and creating my own model for sustainability but it’s a model that is not very parsimonious. So basically I have created a research agenda for my career, which is a good thing. The bad thing is that I am no further along on my dissertation now than I was 3 months ago 😦 Oh well, I’m taking it in stride and moving forward with some other ideas on how social media influence organizational practice.

Really quick though, as I plan to write a more comprehensive post about my model later, but here is a snippet. The conceptual model I am thinking of as to what makes an organization sustainable consists of three concepts.
1) Financial sustainability
2)Responsiveness to the external environment
3)Adaptive Capacity

Now the reason my model is not that simple is because each of those concepts, and it’s likely I will add a few more, consists of several other variables. For instance, financial sustainability can include fundraising, social entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, etc. Responsiveness to the external environment stems in part from contingency theory in that an organization that understands and responds to the environment will be more Fit. In my model the environment consists of the community where the organization is located, the online community the organization wishes to develop, and even the broader market in which the organization has to compete. Adaptive Capacity is the idea that the organization needs to become a learning organization. The organization must learn from its stakeholders, the environment, and become open to change (among other things).

As I have searched the literature to come up with my model I have thought of various ways in which to implement and test it. The problem is every way I think of requires at least 2-3 years of research, and I think that is just way to long for a dissertation. Thankfully my dissertation chair is helping me to understand that I need a project that is feasible and adequate. So as I said before, at least now I have a full fledged research agenda 🙂

Where does this leave me now? Well I am leaning back to some research I did a year ago looking at how organizations are using social media to help with capacity building. I want to focus my questions on Nonprofit Human Service Organizations to understand why they are using social media and then how it might help with capacity building. Part of the reason for this is there are many scales that I can use to capture capacity building efforts. However, I will likely need to adapt the scales to be more congruent with a social media focus. Luckily I am meeting with a professor next week who I hope to have as my methodologist and he is AWESOME. Okay, I am finally running out of steam. Until my next update, have a great week and thanks for reading my blog.


About jimmysw
Associate Professor of Social Work with a focus on the Future of Social Media, Social Work Education and all things technology.

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