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The Path to Acceptance for Community Organisation Members

Ric Raftis

A short time ago, I wrote an article called Pet to Threat, where I discussed the acceptance of new members in community organisations. As a follow up to that article, we will now examine the path to acceptance through cultures within community organisations. Acceptance will be relevant to any new member, be they a volunteer or a member of staff. It will also apply to businesses as much as community organisations.

Two Dimensions, Four Cultures

The concept can be found in an article in the Harvard Business Review around Change Management (Goffee & Jones 1996), which asks the question about What Holds the Modern Company Together. However, you can see some remarkable similarities when applied to community organisations on reading the article.

The article centres around two specific concepts that exist in an organisation. These are sociability and solidarity. Sociability is defined as friendliness, warm-heartedness, companionship and connectedness between people. After being a member of a community organisation for some time, peoples’ sociability index rises.

Solidarity could be defined as the unity of purpose around a common interest. Any community organisation is based on this principle as it is why people join. They have a belief and commitment to the ideals of the organisation.

How Does This Affect New Members

When new members join a community organisation, they are feeling their way. Although they have joined the organisation because of their understanding of the organisation’s ideals, they may still require some time to completely understand what the organisation stands for and what it does for the community.

Consider the following image.

Figure 1: Two Dimensions and Four Cultures

Figure 1: Two Dimensions and Four Cultures
Source: Adapted by the author from Goffee & Jones 1996.

In the bottom left-hand corner, we find the new member who still needs to get to know the established members. During the assessment period, the new member assesses the existing members and they, in turn, assess the new member. As a result, people will form bonds based on the strength of the assessment, and the sociability level of the new member in the organisation will increase over time.

In the same way, the new member is low on solidarity while they learn the intricacies of the community organisation. As their knowledge grows, so will their growth on the solidarity scale. I have called this process the Acceptance Path as a new member moves up both the sociability and solidarity scales. They then exist in the high levels of the matrix and the other members.

Existing Members

You will note on the matrix that I have placed existing members up the top but at different levels on the solidarity index. A broader base is to provide for a variation in views among the organisation’s members. Diversity of ideas is something that always occurs and is healthy for any community organisation to engage in debate about its direction.

The Four Quadrants

The matrix is broken into four quadrants: Fragmented, Networked, Communal, and Mercenary. A discussion of these quadrants is beyond the scope of this article. However, you will find full details of these quadrants in the referenced article (Goffee & Jones 1996)1

Conclusion

There is no getting away from the fact that the acceptance of new members into a community organisation is a process. Organisations that recognise this process will be much better placed to both welcome new members and make them feel valued. It is also the mark of good leadership when new members are eased into an organisation that takes account of the paths through sociability and solidarity.

  1. Goffee, R & Jones, G 1996, What Holds the Modern Company Together?, Harvard Business Review, viewed 8 March 2022, https://hbr.org/1996/11/what-holds-the-modern-company-together. ↩︎
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