Change from Below

We are a community of researchers who use institutional ethnography to study problems that people encounter in their everyday interactions with organizations.

Our discoveries shed light on how organizations work and on how people’s interactions with them create difficulties in their everyday lives.

Based on our discoveries, we are able to see possibilities for change. Because of our research, we can help to put ordinary people in a position to make organizational change from below.

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About Us

This website was built for dialogue between you and the members of our community of researchers. We want to help you learn how to make change in the organizations that you work in or rely on for some kind of services.

Everybody takes for granted the part organizations play in our everyday lives. We rarely think we can do much about the everyday routines and the demands that become an ordinary part of how we must act and organize ourselves. Yet sometimes these expectations seem to detract from what is really needed.

Our group of researchers studies difficulties that people encounter in their everyday interactions in or with any kind of organization. Our discoveries shed light on how organizations work and how sometimes in the process of doing business efficiently and effectively they add new complications for people. Having more knowledge can make it possible to see what needs to be done differently. The right kind of knowledge can also lead to understanding how the organization (and not just us) needs to change.

Our goal is two-fold. First, we want to hear about your difficult situations and experiences of interacting in or with an organization. Second, we want to help you learn what you need to know in order to make organizational change from below. That takes collaborative work.

What We Offer and the Part You Play

We work cooperatively. The project researchers contribute our research experience and you bring sources of information that shed light on the problems we are trying to solve together. This consultation takes place, free of charge, via discussion in website forums and perhaps in private emails too.  It’s you who decides whether to take us up on our offer of free consultation.

In a consultation, we will rely on you to ensure that we fully understand the nature and scope of the tensions and frustrations that you have come to us to help you solve. We will be looking for how they happen as they do. Besides your knowledge of your work and workplace, you may be asked to provide relevant forms and documents that you use in your work.

Any action plans for making organizational change from below that result from the work we do cooperatively will be grounded in the research that our consultations point to. There may be problems that you bring to our attention that we cannot help you with because we cannot conduct the research needed to move towards a solution. This is an inherent limitation on our offer of help in making change from below.

Meet Our Researchers

Members of the community of researchers involved in the Change from Below Project have learned a lot about the way organizations work. We have experience across diverse worksites including unpaid work done in homes; the professional work of nurses and social workers; the work that people with chronic illness or disabilities must undertake to live their lives well; the work of people who hope to benefit from international aid and development, or from literacy work; or from participating in welfare to work programs, and so forth.

Using a form of analysis called institutional ethnography, project researchers unravel how organizational work is put together – that is, how things that people experience are organized. Institutional ethnographers believe that the problems ordinary people encounter are being organized in ways that make sense for organizational experts and leaders. They may overlook, however, the tensions and barriers being created for clients, workers, advocates, parents, and activists, etc. Our ways of thinking about and looking into the experiences that you have had within organizations focus analytic attention on what creates these unexpected or unintended consequences. We recognize your knowledge rather than simply accepting what is supposed to happen if the best intentions of organizations were being realized.

Understanding how specific consequences flow from the work of organizations is the basis for knowing and doing otherwise. In other words, it is the basis for next steps in making organizational change from below.

Marie Campbell

Hospitals and International Development

Cheryl Zurawski

Business Organizations

Jaime McCauley

Social Movement Organizations and Non-Profit Organizations

Annie Carrier

Homecare

Why Talk to Us?

Starting a dialogue is the first step towards finding common ground – that place where our research-oriented knowledge intersects with your knowledge of what’s not working well for you. The website’s forum is the place to begin talking to us and to other people who have similar and different experiences.

In forum groups and discussions, you can share your satisfactory and unsatisfactory organizational experiences and pose questions, etc. In and through this sharing we will decide together whether we can take the next step in understanding the issue. We will agree on a working research relationship based on principles of cooperation and collaboration. The collaboration is geared toward investigating how the organization works and then, working together, to identify processes and practices that could be done differently. This is how “making change from below” is designed – we believe that people at the “front-line/end user” of organizations have important knowledge that can be used to address issues that are not usually visible to managers, policy makers, funders, and so forth.

So, talking to us may lead to working with us. To begin, you first must register to become a participant in the website project.  When you click register and send us a user name and your email address you will be sent an email that provides your access to the website groups. Here is where you will have an opportunity to start or join a group and to introduce yourself and have your say. When you create a profile in the forum, you will choose the username by which you will be known there. We recommend you register using an email address that is not linked to your workplace.

Get Started
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Create a Profile

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Contribute to our Forums

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Work With us Directly