In this project the Principal Investigators will examine the local variation that occurs as part of a top-down effort within a highly institutionalized national system. Institutional theory suggests that local organizations will adopt new national practices to remain legitimate in their larger field of activity, leading to organizational homogeneity; however there is growing interest in the role of local institutions in shaping alternative local responses. As a result local organizations may remain only loosely coupled to broader change efforts. The investigators will explore to what extent change has occurred in local United Way systems over the last decade as part of the move to Community Impact and how such change is associated with shifting community logics and resource environments.
In terms of broader impacts, this research is particularly important during the current sustained recession because in the face of severe economic challenges organizations may face increased pressures to resolve the tensions between national legitimacy and local resource demands. The results of the study will potentially advance practical understanding about change in institutionalized systems. Also, the research team will create a publicly available hierarchical database that matches all local United Ways within the United Way system and the community contexts in which they are embedded to the nonprofits that they fund. This asset will be of value to other researchers.