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Update from the field

How do you find every social movement organization in town? It's not easy. There is no easy-to-find list of activist organizations. No comprehensive directories, no one-stop shopping. Many aren't even registered with the IRS, as many non-profits are. They're either too small, too ephemeral, or too disorganized to bother. People who study social movements often look for these organizations in newspapers, because as we all know protest events make for sensational reading. So, that's where I decided to start. Bad idea. Five weeks later and $1,300 spent on research assistants I had a database of roughly 170 protest events that occurred in Seattle between 1999 and 2005 and 185 organizations that took part in them. That's not a comprehensive list of social movement organizations but a rough approximation of which organizations are out there. Well, many of them aren't really involved in a social movement (they're either lobbying groups or social service providers) or they're not based in Seattle after all. In the past month I've learned that the internet is much more helpful than those newspapers ever would be. Directories, incomplete as they may be, do exist. Activist calendars churn out organization names, and organizations like to link to their coalition partners. To my surprise, snowball sampling can be quite successfully accomplished online. Once I find these organizations I have to figure out if they're really part of a social movement (as I define it quite narrowly) and only then can I call them to try to set up an interview. The upshot of all this? After a month I have a list of nearly 500 organizations and only one stinkin' interview on tape. I have a couple more lined up and a world of guilt and disillusionment holding me back. In the coming week I hope to get in touch with a whole buncha organizations to see if I can pin them down quickly. Time is running out for me here in the Northwest. How many interviews can I complete before July 25th when I leave for Tucson? Not enough. I'm may need more than antacids to get through this dissertation. It looks like I'll need more time. Damnit.

“Update from the field”

  1. Blogger Warbler Says:

    Jeez. You and me both, brother. I had my best week yet - 3 interviews. And none in the pipe.