An Organization is a Tactic

When a public problem presents itself, people come together to solve it.

The structure of the collaboration – if it has durability – is called an organization.

But an organization is just a tactic.

It is the best available structural solution to a collective action problem in a given context.

But contexts change.

Changes in context turn efficiencies into inefficiencies and impossibilities into realities.

What once was effective and profitable is now ineffective and unprofitable.

Newspapers and governments are two examples of organizations that were once thebest available structural solution.

They are now ineffective and unprofitable.

Each organization – each media company, each national government –
is only a tactic to solve a collective action problem.

If the collective action problem remains –

a need for information discovering, analysis, and dissemination

a need for public rule-making and service-provision

– then the organization must be reformed

or a new organizational types must be created.

What organizations will we create to respond to these age-old problems in the new digital context?

What will our tactical innovations be?

3 thoughts on “An Organization is a Tactic

  1. Mary a bunch of us in Montreal have been thinking about something similar. Not fully formed yet, but here you have some seeds of ideas around new organizational structures:

    Other wacky ideas I’ve been batting around:

    An organization with a complete focus/structure oriented toward coordinating activists and campaigns. So the orientation is toward project and financial management. Teams determine roles and responsibilities based on best fit at the time. Fluid, co-created “hierarchy”.

    An organization that is radically transparent and who only accepts core funding. All communications are documented and shared: emails, meetings. Success metrics developed with donors, teams, communities. Single reporting framework.

    I have to go back and read some more Benkler 🙂

    • Christine, I really like what you are doing, and I think the light, nimble, low-overhead approach is the way to go. To learn about the organizational disruption in nonprofits, be sure to read “The Moveon Effect” by Dave Karpf. Very insightful.

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