Dempsey (2009) NGOS, Communicative Labor, And the Work of Grassroots Representation | Non Governmental Organization | Social Entrepreneurship

NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the

Work of Grassroots Representation
Sarah E. Dempsey
In this article, I develop a critical perspective on the communicative labor of
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and on the omissions and silences created by
a spatial, moralizing grassroots discourse. My qualitative case study of an environmental
justice NGO provides a view into the daily practices of communicative labor, including
critical processes of formation. In highlighting how members actively produce and
mobilize images of a grassroots constituency, I challenge the tendency to treat NGOs as
authentic representatives of already-formed constituencies.
Keywords: Grassroots; Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs); Representation; Local;
Communicative Labor
Due to inequalities in wealth, education, and communication infrastructure, many
groups are unable to represent themselves within the global public sphere. In their
absence, professionalized nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a large role in
the publicizing and marketing of social problems and their solutions.
The images
and discourses produced by advocacy NGOs have significant impacts on the
communities who are the targets of their aid; images of people and their needs
attract and repel funding and make political interventions more or less likely.
times, these representations are not initiated or controlled by local interests. Instead,
they are generated by professionals who may not share a cultural history with the
groups they represent. In these cases, NGO representations are a product of
communicative labor, a term describing forms of work primarily oriented around
representing and speaking on the behalf of marginalized groups. Particularly within
transnational contexts, communicative labor is structured by the historical and
Sarah E. Dempsey is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Earlier versions of
this manuscript were presented at the 2007 Western States Communication Association in Denver, CO and 2008
Communication Studies Department Colloquium at UNC-CH. The author would like to thank Stanley Deetz,
Kristina Gibson, Carole Blair, John Sloop, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback.
Correspondence to: 115 Bingham Hall, CB #3285, UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC, 27759. E-mail: sedempse@
ISSN 1479-1420 (print)/ISSN 1479-4233 (online) # 2009 National Communication Association
DOI: 10.1080/14791420903348625
Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies
Vol. 6, No. 4, December 2009, pp. 328Á345
geographical advantages of imperialism, colonialism, and capitalism.
When NGO
representations are taken as transparent reflections of local stakeholders, the
problematic conditions of their formation are easily obscured.
Regardless of the extent to which they are accountable to community stakeholders,
NGOs are regularly cast as the organizational embodiments of the grassroots. Within
scholarly and practitioner accounts, they are seen as ‘‘closer to the grassroots’’ than
their state counterparts, or may even be equated with the grassroots.
The term
grassroots implies local-level, small-scale efforts that are driven by groups who are
directly impacted by the problems or conditions they seek to change. However, the
‘‘grassroots’’ is too often treated as transparent, fixed in place and time, and conceived
of as reflecting the interests of already-formed constituencies.
In this article, I develop a critical perspective on the communicative labor of NGOs,
and, in particular, on the omissions and silences created by a spatial, moralizing
grassroots discourse. My qualitative case study of an environmental justice NGO
provides a view into the daily practices of communicative labor, including critical
processes of formation. In highlighting how members actively produce and mobilize
images of a grassroots constituency, I challenge the tendency to position civil society
organizations as transparently reflecting the desires and wishes of willing subjects.
NGOs and the Work of Representation
Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) are values-based organizations working to
address problems such as poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. They
provide much-needed aid and support to communities across the world. At the same
time, they wield considerable economic and communicative power. Importantly, they
vary according to the extent to which they spring from*and are controlled by*
those groups directly impacted by the issues the NGO addresses. NGOs range from
small, volunteer-led, participatory organizations with limited financial resources to
large, well funded bureaucracies with highly professionalized staff. Although
commonly associated with the local scale, they operate across local, regional, or
international scales. In addition, NGOs are often highly dependent upon funding
agencies and donors*groups who may not be directly accountable to community-
based stakeholders.
NGOs serve multiple roles within the global context. Charity-oriented NGOs like
MercyCorps and Save the Children primarily engage in direct service provision and
disaster relief.
Other NGOs serve as intermediaries, connecting funding agencies, the
state, and widely dispersed community stakeholders. In this role, they function as
providers and withholders of income for community stakeholders,
whether in the
form of salaries, stipends, grants, or loan financing. Finally, advocacy NGOs engage in
the articulation of social problems and their solutions, in part by communicating on
the behalf of particular groups, issues, and policies.
This ‘‘work’’ of representation
includes crafting images of poverty and social need.
Because the reproduction of
knowledge about other people is central to their organizing process, they provide a
particularly rich context to explore the politics of communicative labor.
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 329
Enriching Discussions of Communicative Labor
Several strands of feminist and political theory have demonstrated the need to expand
traditional conceptions of the labor process. For example, feminist economists
highlight the centrality of reproductive and caring labor, which includes the (paid
and unpaid) labor associated with raising children, domestic service, and eldercare.
Pierre Bourdieu’s scholarship develops an understanding of the ways in which
production and accumulation includes both material and symbolic goods. His work
highlights the role of symbolic power, including cultural and symbolic capital, or
forms of capital linked to social legitimization and cultural values.
Recent work by
Maurizio Lazzaratto, Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri suggests that the labor
process has been fundamentally transformed due to the rising hegemony of
immaterial labor.
Immaterial labor is a broad category describing forms of labor
resulting in the production of information, knowledge, ideas, images, relationships,
and affect. Immaterial labor is bio-political, in that it involves the production and
reproduction of the social and of subjectivity.
Hardt and Negri are careful to
distance themselves from claims that immaterial labor has eclipsed or replaced
traditional forms of paid labor, stating that the majority of labor within the global
context continues to involve manufacturing, in which the primary product is a
material good. However, they do suggest that employment contexts of all kinds are
taking on aspects of immaterial labor, such as by becoming more reliant on the
reproduction of information and networks of communication.
Discussions of immaterial labor would benefit from a more nuanced under-
standing of communicative practice, and to organizational contexts in which a
primary task involves advocating on the behalf of others.
Within organizational
communication studies, an interest in immaterial labor has emerged alongside a
concern about the changing nature of work and employment within the global
context. Here, scholars employ the terms ‘‘communication work’’ and ‘‘commu-
nicative labor’’ to highlight what is seen as an increasing commoditization of
communication, particularly within occupations in which the design or practice
of communication takes center stage.
My interest lies in extending the critique of
communicative labor to better understand the politics of organizational representa-
tion, including forms of work centered on the active production, mobilization, and
economization of subjectivities for affect.
Advocacy NGOs provide a particularly troubling example of the ideological
functions of communicative labor. Here, personnel collect a wage for speaking and
advocating on the behalf of groups without ready access to the public sphere. In so
doing, they help constitute the identities of marginalized groups to broader publics
across a variety of scales. Many times, the groups for whom they speak have never
elected them to represent their interests.
Read critically, their labor brings ‘‘to the
privileged of the earth images of people, of needs, and of realities’’ that attract more
funding and legitimization.
In these ways, NGOs and other civil society groups who
speak on the behalf of others exist in a tension-filled relationship with those they
330 S. E. Dempsey
represent. Despite the best of intentions, and by virtue of their ability to speak on the
behalf of others, NGOs may further marginalize groups without access to the public
sphere. As Linda Alcoff warns, although a speaker ‘‘may be trying to materially
improve the situation of some lesser privileged group, the effects of [their] discourse
[may] . . . reinforce racist, imperialist conceptions and perhaps . . . silence the lesser-
privileged group’s own ability to speak and be heard.’’
However, a moralizing,
spatial discourse of the grassroots naturalizes the communicative labor of NGOs and
other professionalized civil society groups.
Seductiveness of a Grassroots Discourse
Grassroots as a Moralizing Spatial Metaphor
Growing numbers of NGOs speak on the behalf of grassroots constituencies.
Although the grassroots has become a key marker of legitimacy within the global
public sphere, it is rarely given the critical attention it deserves. Conceptions of the
grassroots gain their power in part by functioning as a deeply moralizing spatial
metaphor. The grassroots implies a sense of rooted-ness, or deep connection with a
local place. As stated by Smith and Katz, ‘‘spatial metaphors are problematic in so far
as they presume that space is not.’’
The local derives its strength from deeply held
cultural beliefs tied to place and what it means to be local.
Being associated with the
local scale implies authenticity and accountability. For example, the environmental
justice movement is often distinguished from more mainstream environmental
groups, in part through their more direct connection to particular localities.
In this
way, groups associated with the local are often seen as having a deeper understanding
and more legitimate claim on decision-making than groups associated with other
scales. Conceptions of the grassroots vis-a` -vis the local are profoundly intertwined
with moral virtue; when equated, the grassroots obtains the status of a morally pure
terrain: a place innocent of politics.
However, the romanticization of the local scale disguises the extent to which local
social arrangements are as deeply gendered, classed, and raced as other scales.
Virtuous conceptions of the local vis-a` -vis the metaphor of the grassroots minimize
the antagonistic, hierarchical, and often exclusionary relationships existing at the
local level.
For example, social movements grounded within a place-based discourse
of rights may foster reactionary politics and ideologies of nationalism or
Put simply, the conflation of the grassroots with the local denies the
heterogeneity and the politics occurring at this scale.
The metaphor of the grassroots as fixed at the local also perpetuates a hierarchy of
scale found within contemporary visions of globalization. The local and the global are
commonly understood as stable and mutually exclusive rather than as contingent on
one another and as continually in the process of being re-produced.
Across practical
and academic usage, the local is most often thought of as the primary scale at which
resistance and agency to global forces occurs.
In this way, conceptions of the
grassroots are often set in opposition to a particular global imaginary. Not only is the
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 331
local scale commonly seen as more authentic than other scales, but it is often
conceived of as the antidote to global power. Here, the global is produced as a
powerful and corrupting force that acts upon the local. Of course, the ‘‘local’’ is never
purely local, but is constituted in part by extra-local linkages and practices over
Likewise, so-called global processes such as neoliberalism only achieve
concrete existence at local scales and within grounded practices. Yet, the metaphor of
the grassroots, with its implied hierarchy of scale, has become increasingly tied up
with what are seen as more emancipatory forms of development.
(Entrepreneurial) Grassroots as Alternative Development
Conceptions of the grassroots are increasingly bound to a discourse of entrepre-
neurialism and alternative development. At its broadest, development refers to
strategic interventions into problems of poverty, hunger, and other material needs.
How these needs are identified, conceptualized, and met has led development projects
down a highly contested road. Gustavo Esteva, commenting on the impacts of
development efforts in Mexico City, crystallizes a common sentiment in radical
critiques. In a widely cited statement, he argues: ‘‘You must be either very dumb or
very rich if you fail to notice that development stinks.’’
An overarching criticism of
mainstream development projects is that they delegate local people to the sidelines,
where they are conceived of as objects to be developed, rendering them without
In response to sustained public scrutiny, academic critique, and pressure
from social movements, development institutions have adopted discourses of
‘‘alternative development,’’ which support the inclusion of gender, sustainability,
and most notably, the concept of grassroots participation.
Micro-enterprise is increasingly promoted as an alternative mechanism for
harnessing grassroots participation and support. Micro-enterprise approaches
embrace the local scale and include an array of what are seen as smaller and more
manageable interventions into the informal economy. Two of the most widely praised
examples of micro-enterprise include The Grameen Bank, which awards small start-
up loans to members, and Heifer International, an international NGO providing
families with income-generating animals and livestock through a donor system.
Micro-enterprise approaches are attractive to progressives who value community,
leftists who emphasize relational trust and collective action, conservatives who value
individual enterprise and economic growth, and to neoliberal projects concerned
with reducing the influence of the state.
Although micro-credit has been widely
praised, critics fear that the widespread promotion of micro-enterprise strengthens a
form of neoliberal citizenship in which a key criterion includes an individual’s ability
to successfully engage with the market.
In many cases, micro-enterprise requires the
formation of self-surveilling small groups. Here, participants’ own interpersonal and
familial networks are economized as loan collateral. In addition, feminist economist
critique suggests that micro-enterprises on their own do little to challenge the
enduring structural conditions that sustain poverty. When associated with micro-
enterprise, the grassroots takes on an increasingly moral tint, shifting poverty
332 S. E. Dempsey
solutions away from collective responses and onto the poor.
praises the poor for their enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit, conceived of as
flourishing at the local scale. As these localized development schemes have come into
vogue, international donors have provided increased financial support for NGOs to
facilitate these initiatives. For grounded insight into how a moralizing, spatial
discourse of the grassroots helps obscure the communicative labor of NGOs, I turn to
the case of GI.
Case Study of Communicative Labor
Organizational Context
‘‘Grassroots International’’ (GI) is the pseudonym of a small US-based NGO working
on environmental justice issues. At their request, I use a pseudonym to protect the
confidentiality of those who generously provided me with access to their daily
activities and work lives. Established in the early 1990s, GI was an early player in
raising the profile of small-scale international grant-making in the US Compared to
more highly publicized NGOs such as MercyCorps or Heifer International, GI keeps a
relatively low public profile. GI can be seen as representative of the growing category
of re-granting NGOs who act as intermediaries between large funding agencies and
small-scale community-based groups. Such NGOs have gained the favor of US
funding agencies because of their small size, flattened hierarchies, and perceived
accountability to community-based stakeholders.
While the largest portion of GI’s financial support comes from mid-sized US
foundations, the organization also draws funds from wealthy individuals and a
handful of carefully selected progressive businesses. In kind donations in the form of
rent and office supplies also help offset their basic operating costs. The vast majority
of GI’s million dollar operating budget goes toward funding their small grants
program. Since the early nineties, GI has awarded more than 2,500 small grants
(ranging from US$300 to US$3,000) to community-based groups in over 100
The US office, the primary focus of this study, includes seven full time and five part
time paid staff and a changing cast of unpaid interns and volunteers.
salaries are relatively low compared to those doing similar work in the nonprofit
sector. Despite this, staff work long hours and remain dedicated to the pursuit of
environmental and social justice. As a group, they are deeply committed to bettering
the lives of grassroots groups working in poor countries around the world.
GI draws heavily upon overseas voluntary labor, including from nine designated
community leaders and nearly 100 community advisors stretching across 11 different
regions of the world. These volunteers serve as GI’s intermediaries to the grassroots,
or their ‘‘eyes and ears on the ground,’’ as described in organizational documents. GI
advisors help identify, nominate, and mentor fledgling community groups who
would benefit from a small grant. This system of international grant-making requires
a significant amount of translation and communication across social, economic, and
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 333
cultural borders, and GI staff supplement their use of email, fax, and telephone
contact with regular international travel to meet with their advisors.
GI presents a particularly rich case to investigate communicative labor and the
politics of grassroots representation. Compared to more professionalized NGOs, GI
requires minimal reporting from both their grantees and advisors, encouraging their
grantees to forgo spending their valuable time on reporting. As a result, US staff
members inherit the primary task of representing their grantees to various publics.
Members spend the majority of their time writing reports to funding agencies,
pitching their particular model of ‘‘grassroots funding’’ to potential donors, and
creating and marketing persuasive stories and narratives about their work to US
publics. This communicative labor includes designing images and stories about
particular grantees, including reports about the development and environmental
needs of far flung communities they may never have visited. As will be discussed,
stories of a particular kind of enterprising grassroots subject play a central role in
attracting further funding.
My use of a qualitative mode of inquiry stems from a desire to situate the ideological
functions of the metaphor of the grassroots within the patterns of daily life, including
within everyday organizing practices.
I make no claims to be mirroring reality,
arguing instead that my account helps illustrate the lived practices that constitute
communicative labor, and that attention to such experiences contributes to an
understanding of the power relations operating within professionalized civil society
contexts. The case study draws upon approximately 200 hours of participant
observation and the analysis of meetings and organizational documents to paint a
picture of communicative labor at GI. Over the course of approximately two years,
I participated in organizational activities as a volunteer and known investigator.
During this time, I sat in on staff meetings, created and edited organizational
documents, helped plan an organizational retreat, and presented my interpretations
and analyses to staff members. My participant observation data includes detailed field
notes of daily organizational practices such as formal and informal meetings, and the
creation and refinement of analytic memos. To gain insight into patterns of
interaction and processes of sense-making, I also audio-taped and transcribed seven
staff meetings. Finally, I tracked organizational documents as they changed over time.
This included discursive analysis of marketing materials, press releases, reports and
stories aimed at funding agencies and the public, annual reports, web site materials,
and staff memos, working papers, and reviews.
Qualitative and interpretive approaches involve their own communicative labor,
including the ability to constitute the subjects of study and further particular
interpretations over others.
Sensitive to the dilemmas of representation, I drew
upon impromptu and ethnographic interviews and informal member-checks to
discuss my interpretations with members.
My analysis follows general qualitative
methods for inductive and iterative thematizing across cases.
During the initial
334 S. E. Dempsey
stage, I compared the reoccurring ways in which staff represented and reframed the
nature of development and empowerment, the poor within third world contexts,
and definitions of key categories such as grantees and environmental justice.
I centered further iterative analysis on understanding how members constituted
and mobilized images of their grantees across multiple discourses.
Rather than taking what has been called a muscular view of discourse, my analysis
focuses on the details and variations of multiple organizational discourses as
understood by cultural members.
The multiple sources of qualitative material
(participant observations and field notes, formal meeting discourse, and organiza-
tional documents) inform one another, and I compared these for insight into how
particular logics gained resonance at the level of daily talk, how they came to be
contested or reproduced within processes of organizing, and their dis/similarities
with more enduring logics of development and philanthropy.
Case Study of Communicative Labor
Constructing a Grassroots Identity
Understanding communicative labor at GI requires an appreciation of the centrality
of the metaphor of the grassroots to GI’s public identity. GI’s legitimacy as a small
re-granting NGO converged around the claim that their brand of grantmaking
brought them closer to the grassroots than other NGOs. GI’s unofficial motto,
repeated in funding documents and in daily talk, was: ‘‘we harness the power of the
grassroots.’’ Across a variety of promotional materials and within everyday talk,
members emphasized their close connections with the grassroots. As one member
explained to me during a weekly staff meeting, ‘‘The whole idea is to come up with
ways to get funds from well-intentioned but poorly connected donors to well-
deserving grassroots groups or individuals on the ground.’’ Documents aimed at
potential donors assured readers that GI was able to locate and gain access to groups
working on the most local of scales. Here, GI positioned themselves as part of a new
generation of NGOs tapped directly into the grassroots.
One of the many possible manifestations of communicative labor within the NGO
sector includes assigning praise and blame. Staff members stressed their deep
connection to the grassroots in part by distancing themselves from other NGOs.
Marketing materials presented their model of grant-making as a more empowering
alternative to traditional NGOs engaged in direct service provision. Within daily
practice, members critiqued other NGOs for being too intrusive or parochial, not
‘‘grassroots enough,’’ and too dominating and controlling. For example, during
weekly meetings, GI’s director of development provided mini progress reports on the
changing landscape of funding for international work. These reports included
information on recent funding decisions by foundations and other philanthropy
organizations. In one of these updates, she related her experiences at a conference
attended by representatives from other NGOs on the topic of international
grantmaking, stating:
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 335
There was a lot of good discussion about the grassroots, which was nice for a
change. People talked about the importance of the grassroots in any kind of change,
the kind of change that we’re trying to make here, but frankly, in all the discussions,
almost all of the focus was on changing things domestically . . . it was a very inward
kind of focus (emphasis mine).
Her account is representative of how members constructed GI as taking more of an
international outlook, as well as being more centrally concerned with, and connected
to, the grassroots than other NGOs.
Members also related similar stories about professionalized environmental NGOs
undermining the rights of local people, seen as the grassroots. During a talk given in a
university setting, a staff member took care to distinguish GI from other NGOs. Her
comments reveal how members drew upon a spatial metaphor to give meaning to the
The environmental movement internationally has a number of problems. For
example, the big conservation NGOs don’t collaborate with local people. Here [at
GI], we talk instead in terms of environmental justice, and we set ourselves apart
from big conservation, especially in places like Mexico, for example, where the
environmental movement is seen as a curse because they will decide where the park
goes and this keeps local people out of areas. People see that these big groups leave
them out. These environmental groups work in a really disengaged way.
In this way, members associated their grassroots-oriented model as an antidote to the
problems of mainstream development.
In another example, a document aimed at funders argued that the grassroots is
inherently more democratic, and ‘‘by definition . . . aligned with the interests of the
little guy.’’ Together, these examples illustrate how organizational members mobilized
the spatial metaphor of the grassroots to formulate a sense of accountability fixed at
the local scale. The metaphor of the grassroots allowed the redefinition of the
problem to interventions by highly bureaucratized organizations, seen as non-local.
These practices reveal how communicative labor produces definitions of problems
and their likely solutions. This particular formulation may be counterproductive in
so far as it contributes to overly narrow diagnoses, including rigid conceptions of
what constitutes a legitimate actor or authentic intervention.
Constructing Grassroots Subjects
The spatial metaphor of the grassroots also calls into being a particular kind of
subject resonating with enduring discourses of US philanthropy. GI’s promotional
materials created a consistent and idealized image of grassroots agents, described as:
deeply accountable to local communities, highly knowledgeable about local
conditions, better able to diagnose community problems and solutions, possessing
greater moral authority, and having greater energy and enthusiasm. Materials
addressed to potential financial contributors emphasized that grassroots giving was
a savvy economic strategy, allowing foundations to get more ‘‘bang for their buck.’’
As one document explained, because grassroots groups already work with limited
336 S. E. Dempsey
economic resources and volunteer labor . . . they are good at knowing how to ‘‘stretch
a dollar.’’ Reappearing in meeting talk and throughout promotional documents, this
sentiment linked the grassroots to an enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit.
Several additional elements of the construction of enterprising grassroots subjects
are particularly noteworthy. First, this construction supports GI’s espoused value of
the importance of local knowledge and direct experience in decision-making
processes. Given the history of development interventions, this is a highly laudable
goal. At the same time, this account is made possible by a particular vision of what a
local person is and how they will act. Such discourses frame local people as better able
to understand the conditions of their oppression as well as imply that local people are
guided by the moral authority to do what is right. This formulation links the
grassroots with a romantic conception of the local as a fixed, virtuous, and socially
unified place. Second, this construction also reproduces the familiar fiction of the
grassroots as an already-formed, static constituency, and draws upon a romantic
narrative of community. Here, grassroots agents are understood as ‘‘naturally’’ and
deeply accountable to their communities. Such accounts leave little room for the
experience of inequality, difference, and heterogeneity at the local scale. They also
downplay the exclusionary, patriarchal and racist tendencies of many communities,
as well as assume that communities are already fully equipped to recognize the
conditions of their oppression. Together, these representations provide an illustration
of how the presumed ontological transparency of the grassroots obscures the
communicative labor contributing to its very own production.
‘‘Some Grants Are More Exciting Than Others . . .’’ Obscuring Communicative Labor
and Processes of Formation at the Hands of NGO Workers
Although the grassroots tends to be treated transparently, images of the grassroots at
GI took a considerable amount of work to produce. In fact, members spent much of
their time actively shaping accounts of a particular kind of genuinely grassroots
subject. Alongside their deep commitment to the ability of communities to determine
their own development, members struggled to sell their model of grant-making to
potential funders and the general public. Throughout my fieldwork, staff members
identified the ongoing need for ‘‘good stories.’’ Early in my involvement as a
participant researcher, I asked a staff member about what kinds of volunteer work the
organization would benefit from. She replied that there was a strong desire for articles
aimed at the popular press and potential funders that clearly described the benefits of
funding the grassroots. The purpose of these stories would be to ‘‘help explain GI’s
alternative approach to grantmaking’’ and ‘‘demonstrate the importance of giving
control over decision-making to local groups.’’ The need for persuasive ‘‘good stories’’
never waned. In fact, a staff member in charge of organizational development
typically began her report during staff meetings with an appeal such as: ‘‘Well, I really
need some meaty stories for a particular proposal.’’ In addition, staff reported feeling
ongoing pressure to create stories that funders would find persuasive.
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 337
As grantee reports trickled in to the central office, members would regularly flag
examples of ‘‘good stories’’ to highlight in reports to funders and in other
promotional documents. For example, in one case, the director highlighted the
need to publicize a grant to Indonesia, commenting that it provided a ‘‘great account
of community organizing and direct action to combat illegal logging.’’ Such
comments reflect how the local is easily assigned a unified moral stance*despite
the fact that in some cases, segments of the local community may benefit from such
practices as illegal logging. In addition, virtuous accounts disavow those segments of
communities who might be struggling for development, rather than against it.
At GI, stories that constructed grantees as ‘‘naturally’’ and deeply accountable to a
unified conception of community were highly valued and promoted. Although such
romantic conceptions of community may appeal to US audiences invested in a
history of valorization of civil society, they minimize the competing interests and
heterogeneity of local communities.
Additional comments from a staff member reveal the underlying assumptions
guiding evaluations of what kinds of grassroots action make for a ‘‘good story.’’
During a weekly staff meeting held just prior to our interview, a staff member
assigned to overseeing grants (GM) expressed frustration with not getting enough
feedback of a certain kind from grantees, saying, ‘‘some grants are more exciting than
others and we need to be following up on these. This is our product and we need to
find out more information about these grants.’’ After the meeting, I (SD) asked what
he thought made a grant more or less exciting and why that mattered. His comments
provide a revealing example of how particular actions are valued as more or less
GM. Well, there’s a group that we only fund because they are a pet project of one of
our advisors. All the group does is work on cultural exchanges between their
country and the US. They do things like create Internet pen pals. The problem
is that there is no overarching theme or larger goal. It’s lame. But, there are
some grants that are really good. For example, one grant we do supports a
wandering musician to go around to communities and help connect them to
one another and get them involved in environmental activities. We can never
get in touch with him because he’s always wandering around. [laughs] His
reports are always crumpled and dirty. [pause] But the project is SO good!
SD. Why is it so good?
GM. It’s doing want we want. It’s genuinely grassroots and going to groups that
don’t have the capacity to get funding otherwise. That’s the point of the
model, to find those three fishermen that are working on water issues in their
communities and link them with good advisors to encourage them.
In such an account, the enterprising activist connecting local communities to one
another suggests self-determination and spontaneity, or the ability to proceed
without outside intervention. Here, social change is the result of individualistic rather
than collective action. The account also indicates a general preference for grantees
equipped with a particular environmental ethic. The comment, ‘‘It’s doing what we
want’’ suggests an unspoken concern about designating decision-making to grassroots
groups: what if, given the choice, they reject ecology? By implying the morality and
338 S. E. Dempsey
unity of the local, the metaphor of the grassroots functions as a form of discursive
The continued demand on members of GI to produce ‘‘good stories’’ provides a
view into the political processes of formation that constitute communicative labor
and grassroots representation. Members evaluated ‘‘good stories’’ in terms of how
well they appealed to the prevailing trends of funding agencies. Of these, accounts
highlighting the spontaneity and autonomy of local groups and a preference for a
particular set of ecological values were the most highly sought after. Good stories not
only testified to GI’s lack of intervention into the affairs of local communities, but
they also minimized the extent to which the story was the product of communicative
labor and itself an ideologically constructed account. Just as anti-rhetoric rhetorics
are accompanied by an intense conviction that they are not acting rhetorically, a
‘‘good story’’ about enterprising grassroots subjects also denies its own constructed
Over the course of my fieldwork, members showed steady concern for the need for
persuasive stories demonstrating the ways in which grassroots groups spontaneously
organized for transformative change within their communities. However, only a small
number of GI grants fit the demands of a truly enterprising neoliberal subject. GI’s
strategic report provided a unique incentive for staff to take action in this regard.
Developed by an outside consultant over the course of several months, the report
emphasized that the creation of ‘‘compelling narratives about grantees, advisors and
the impact of our work will have growing importance for both individual and donor
communication and foundation development.’’ During this time, funding agencies
began actively promoting the use of social entrepreneurialism as a tool for
community development. After receiving funding to address their need for more
persuasive ‘‘good stories,’’ GI hired another consultant to research and create a set of
concept papers exploring the topic of social entrepreneurship. According to the
principles of social entrepreneurship, taken here from a document created by the
Social entrepreneurs are solutions to social problems. While the world is
increasingly faced with social and environmental challenges, social entrepreneurs
distinguish themselves by showing the driving motivation necessary to persist until
they change society in a meaningful and sustainable manner. Working within
organizations and networks, social entrepreneurs attack the root causes of social
challenges that have an impact on individuals, societies, and the natural
environment in a bold and resourceful way.
The grants manager explicitly sought to shore up the image of GI grantees as social
entrepreneurs by assigning volunteer members of GI the task of creating exemplary
case studies of social entrepreneurship. GI circulated these case studies as examples of
‘‘best practices.’’ These case studies were then used as models in the drafting of future
stories about grassroots action.
Stories of social entrepreneurship position grantees as autonomous subjects taking
bold risks to determine their own strategies for change. They include activities
directed solely by local people in their communities. For example, a case study
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 339
detailing a community’s adoption of solar cells emphasized self sufficiency by stating:
‘‘supplies were not ‘gifts’ from an aid organization or products to be bought dearly
from a distant provider . . . they were the result of a community’s own hard work and
collaboration.’’ Grant reports and public documents incorporated images similar to
those found in these case studies, further solidifying conceptions of an enterprising
and ecological grassroots subject. The image of local communities directing their own
processes of development corresponds with the potentially emancipatory goals of
alternative development. However, this particular configuration of the grassroots is
also potentially problematic in that it may divert attention from the need for wider
societal and structural changes in the allocation of resources. In addition, ‘‘good
stories’’ emphasized individual responsibility and the entrepreneurial spirit, both seen
as flourishing at the local scale. The metaphor of the grassroots as morally and
spatially fixed protects these representations*and their subsequent implications*
from prolonged scrutiny.
NGOs and the Politics of Organizational Representation
This case study draws upon the experiences of members of an international NGO to
provoke several insights into communicative labor. First, it contributes grounded
insight into the many intersections between communication and power within the
NGO context. Although it is often assumed that the requirements for a more
democratic culture may be found within civil society, the organizations constituting
this sector are structured by a complex set of economic relationships and social and
material inequalities. These inequalities contribute to the differential ability of
particular groups to represent their interests within the global public sphere.
In addition, communicative labor should be seen as going beyond simple processes
of (mis)appropriation to include active processes of invention. At GI, communicative
labor involved the discovery, invention, and promotion of particular stories over
others. In addition to providing compelling narratives of the local, these stories
served as a key means of differentiating GI from other NGOs. As such, NGO
representations should be seen as the result of a considerable amount of work, and as
inevitably serving particular interests over others. Increased attention to the division
of communicative labor can provide unique insight into the dilemmas of advocacy
and philanthropy within the global context.
Second, the case is particularly revealing of the ways in which a grassroots
discourse naturalizes the communicative labor of NGOs. My analysis suggests the
ease with which conceptions of the grassroots are tied to a romantic ideal of place, in
which the local is understood as unified and conflict-free.
Drawing upon the work
of critical geographers, I have argued that such romanticization denies the politics
operating at this scale, including the extent to which localities might be characterized
by conflicting interests. Importantly, NGOs and other groups may be more easily read
as non-patronizing, or as the progressive embodiment of alternative or resistant
development when they align themselves with the local community. By functioning as
340 S. E. Dempsey
a moralizing, spatial metaphor, a grassroots discourse obscures its own formation, its
own internal organization, and its own essentializing effects.
Equated with the grassroots, NGOs of all stripes are much less likely to have to
account for their own position and relative power in relation to those they represent.
This includes the critical distinction between professionalized NGOs who conceive of
their stakeholders as groups to be represented, and those groups who engage in direct
self-representation. Here, ‘‘representation’’ invokes at least two meanings. In one
sense, it refers to political representation, such as when an NGO claims to represent
the interests of a particular group. Representation also involves construction and
portraiture, which includes claims about what a group is really, actually like,
including assessments about marginalization and agency.
In foregrounding
communicative labor, we guard against naı ¨ve conceptions of NGOs as transparently
reflected an already-formed grassroots constituency.
A third insight follows. In the process of attempting to improve a group’s
circumstances, NGOs may reinforce forms of knowledge preventing these very groups
from eventually speaking on their own behalf.
This has bearing upon advocacy
more largely, and is well illustrated within the case of GI. At first glance, hyperbolic
constructions of the grassroots appear to provide an alternative to dominant
discourses of victim-hood, or processes of essentialism framing groups in poor
countries in terms of their helplessness and lack of agency. However, the glorification
of the grassroots and the local scale also results in homogenization.
Finally, the critique of the grassroots reveals a need to expand current discussions
of organizational representation and stakeholder participation. My analysis suggests
the need to differentiate between groups who are able to participate in processes of
meaning construction, including the means and ability to determine the content and
form of the images representing them within the global public sphere.
deeply committed to the ideal of participative development and local self
determination, GI staff retained primary control in shaping and mobilizing the
representations of groups in poor countries to US publics. Through their
communicative labor, they create images of local people*sometimes without explicit
consent or participation*for the consumption of a ‘‘First World’’ audience.
Although GI members were dedicated to democratizing their relationships with
local groups, these groups were afforded very little opportunity to shape the very
images and vocabularies constituting them for US audiences.
Such exclusions are
perhaps even more commonplace and complete for groups considered to be
illegitimate grassroots actors and who, as a result, are considered ineligible to speak
and to represent. This is well illustrated by the enthusiastic adoption of social
entrepreneurship by NGOs and funding agencies more widely. Future research should
attend to the ways in which groups not readily adhering to a mode of neoliberal
citizenship may be excluded. Ultimately, the development of richer conceptions of
immaterial and communicative labor requires an increased understanding of the
conditions of formation, from the daily organizing practices of key players like
NGOs, to the broader social and economic realms within which these representations
are reshaped and rearticulated.
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 341
[1] I use the term ‘‘NGO’’ rather than ‘‘nonprofit’’ to reflect my interest in values-based
organizations working internationally on social problems such as human development and
environmental degradation.
[2] For example, see Lisa McLaughlin, ‘‘Transnational Feminism and the Revolutionary
Association of the Women of Afghanistan,’’ in Media on the Move: Global Flow and
Contra-flow, ed. D. K. Thussa (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 221Á36.
[3] See Radha S. Hegde, ‘‘A View from Elsewhere: Locating Difference and the Politics of
Representation from a Transnational Feminist Perspective,’’ Communication Theory 8 (1998):
271Á97; Raka Shome, ‘‘Transnational Feminism and Communication Studies,’’ The
Communication Review 9 (2006): 255Á67.
[4] See Michael Edwards and Gita Sen, ‘‘NGOs, Social Change and the Transformation of
Human Relationships: A 21st Century Agenda,’’ Third World Quarterly 21 (2000): 605Á16;
Sangeeta Kamat, Development Hegemony: NGOs and the State in India (New Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 2002).
[5] Here, I extend Miranda Joseph’s useful insights in Against the Romance of Community
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002).
[6] Joseph, ‘‘Against the Romance of Community.’’
[7] For more on NGO accountability, see Sarah E. Dempsey, ‘‘Negotiating Accountability within
International Contexts: The Role of Bounded Voice,’’ Communication Monographs 31 (2007):
[8] Peter Frumkin provides additional insight into these multiple roles, On Being Nonprofit:
A Conceptual and Policy Primer (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2002).
[9] As Miranda Joseph clearly outlines, the term ‘‘community’’ is highly problematic, bringing to
mind an idyllic, conflict-free, already-formed sociality. Here I hope to mark the distinction
between groups who are more or less directly impacted by the social problems
being addressed. I develop a critique of abstract treatments of community in: Sarah E.
Dempsey, ‘‘Critiquing Community Engagement,’’ Management Communication Quarterly,
in press.
[10] This includes the deployment of image politics, see Kevin DeLuca, Image Politics: The New
Rhetoric of Environmental Activism (New York: Guilford, 1999).
[11] Although I highlight the particularly discursive or affective qualities of these forms of work,
these qualities cannot be separated from their economic relations. Borrowing from Burawoy,
employment contexts involve three interrelated dimensions: an economic dimension (the
production of material goods), a political dimension (the production of social relations), and
an ideological dimension (the production of an experience of those relations). See The
Politics of Production: Factory Regimes under Capitalism and Socialism (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1985). Here, I hope to emphasize that the non-profit distributing and often
voluntary nature of the NGO context complicates these distinctions.
[12] For example, see Drucilla K. Barker and Susan F. Feiner, Liberating Economics: Feminist
Perspectives on Families, Work, and Globalization (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan
Press, 2004); Nancy Folbre, The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values (New York:
New York Press, 2001); and Maxine Molyneux, ‘‘Beyond the Domestic Labor Dispute,’’ New
Left Review 116 (1979): 3Á27. Feminist political economists have also helped dispel the myth
of Economic Man, opening up new ways of thinking about how irrationality, emotion, and
affect figures within the labor process. For example, Hochschild’s study of flight attendants
identified emotion labor as a distinctly gendered form of labor involving the commercializa-
tion of employees’ inner feelings. See Arlie R. Hochchild, The Managed Heart: Commercia-
lization of Human Feeling (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).
[13] Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1977); Language & Symbolic Power, 5th ed., trans. Gino Raymond and
342 S. E. Dempsey
Matthew Adamson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999). Kenneth Burke also
describes symbolic labor as a form of labor that has deep meaning or symbolic significance,
in contrast to the ‘‘pure drudgery’’ of necessitous labor: Permanence and Change:
An Anatomy of Purpose, 3rd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984): 80Á84.
[14] Maurizio Lazzarato, ‘‘Immaterial Labor,’’ in Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics, ed.
P. Virno and M. Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996): 133Á47; Michael
Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000); Multitude:
War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin Books, 2004).
[15] Through the development of immaterial labor, Hardt and Negri stretch the category of the
Marxist revolutionary subject to include ‘‘all those who labor and produce under the rule of
capital,’’ p. 107. While their work has been generative for many scholars and activists, they
are also criticized for contributing to an overly optimistic view of globalization and the ‘‘New
Economy,’’ as well for seemingly privileging the symbolic and the discursive over the
economic bases of class exploitation. See Dana Cloud, ‘‘Laboring under the Sign of the New:
Cultural Studies, Organizational Communication, and the Fallacy of the New Economy,’’
Management Communication Quarterly 15 (2001): 268Á78; ‘‘Fighting Words: Labor and the
Limits of Communication at Staley, 1993 to 1996,’’ Management Communication Quarterly
18 (2005): 509Á42.
[16] Ronald Walter Greene has a different goal in his discussion of immaterial/communicative
labor from a rhetorical perspective. Here, he refashions rhetorical agency as communicative
labor: ‘‘Rhetoric and Capitalism: Rhetorical Agency as Communicative Labor,’’ Rhetoric &
Philosophy 37 (2004): 202. For a rebuttal to his efforts, see Dana L. Cloud, Steve Macek, and
James Arnt Aune, ‘‘The Limbo of Ethical Simulacra: A Reply to Ron Greene,’’ Philosophy &
Rhetoric 39 (2006):72Á84.
[17] I extend the concept of communicative labor by drawing attention to forms of work in which
a primary task includes speaking on the behalf of others, particularly when this involves the
crafting of representations of historically marginalized groups. Key organizational commu-
nication research in this area includes David Carlone’s study of communicative labor in the
context of customer service job training for dislocated workers, ‘‘The Contradictions of
Communicative Labor in Service Work’’ Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 5
(2008), 158Á79; Mark Aukhus on ‘‘Communication as Design,’’ Communication Monographs
74 (2007): 112Á17; and the recent Management Communication Quarterly 22, ‘‘Forum on
Meaningful Work Studies in Organizational Communication,’’ (2008): 147Á80.
[18] Here, I extend Deetz’s critique of corporate stakeholder representation to the nonprofit
context. Stanley Deetz, Democracy in an Age of Corporate Colonization: Developments in
Communication and the Politics of Everyday Life (Albany: State University of New York Press,
1992); Transforming Communication, Transforming Business: Building Responsive and
Responsible Workplaces (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 1995).
[19] Janet G. Townsend and Alan R. Townsend, ‘‘Accountability, Motivation and Practice: NGOs
North and South,’’ Social & Cultural Geography 5 (2004): 273. For a similar argument, see
Christina Ewig, ‘‘The Strengths and Limits of the NGO Women’s Movement Model: Shaping
Nicaragua’s Democratic Institutions,’’ Latin American Research Review 34 (1999): 75Á102.
[20] Linda Alcoff, ‘‘The Problem of Speaking for Others,’’ Cultural Critique 20 (1991): 310.
[21] Neil Smith and Cindi Katz, ‘‘Grounding Metaphor: Towards a Spatialized Politics,’’ Place and
the Politics of Identity, ed. M. Keith and S. Pile (London: Routledge, 1993): 67Á83.
[22] See Kay Anderson, ‘‘The Idea of Chinatown: The Power of Place and Institutional Practice in
the Making of a Racial Category,’’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77
(1987): 580Á98; Deborah Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1994); Alan Pred, ‘‘Place as Historically Contingent Process: Structuration
and the Time-geography of Becoming Places,’’ Annals of the Association of American
Geographers 74 (1984): 279Á97; Yi-Fu Tuan, ‘‘Space and Place: Humanistic Perspective,’’
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 343
Progress in Human Geography 6 (1974): 233Á46.; Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash,
Grassroots Post-modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures (London: Zed Books, 1998).
[23] DeLuca states: ‘‘while mainstream groups use the public as a direct-mail target to fund their
scientific, legal, and lobbying experts, the environmental justice movement is local people
activated by personal experiences and love of particular place.’’ Image politics, p. 81.
As DeLuca demonstrates, this deployment is often strategic.
[24] For further insight into this claim, see Deborah Mindry, ‘‘Nongovernmental Organizations,
‘Grassroots,’ and the Politics of Virtue,’’ Signs 26 (2001): 1187Á211.
[25] Giles Mohan and Kristian Stokke, ‘‘Participatory Development and Empowerment:
The Dangers of Localism,’’ Third World Quarterly 21 (2000): 247Á68.
[26] David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1996). For additional complication of this line of critique, see Arturo
Escobar, ‘‘Culture Sites in Places: Reflections on Globalism and Subaltern Strategies of
Localization,’’ Political Geography 20 (2001): 139Á74.
[27] Carla Freeman, ‘‘Is Local:Global as Feminine:Masculine? Rethinking the Gender of
Globalization,’’ Signs 26 (2001): 1007Á37; Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism Without
Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
[28] Lawrence Grossberg, ‘‘The Space of Power, the Power of Space,’’ The Postcolonial Question,
ed. I. Chambers and L. Curti (New York: Routledge, 1996): 169Á88; For insight into the
rhetoric of locality, see Greg Dickinson and Casey Malone Maugh, ‘‘Placing Visual Rhetoric:
Finding Material Comfort in Wild Oats Market,’’ Defining Visual Rhetorics, ed. Charles A.
Hill and Marguerite Helmers (Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004): 259Á76.
[29] Deborah Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
1994); J. K. Gibson-Graham, The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2006).
[30] Gustavo Esteva, ‘‘Development: Metaphor, Myth, Threat,’’ Development: Seeds of Change 3
(1985): p. 78.
[31] Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995); James Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine:
‘‘Development,’’ Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1994)
[32] See Nancy Morris, ‘‘A Comparative Analysis of the Diffusion and Participatory Models in
Development Communication,’’ Communication Theory 13 (2003): 225Á48.
[33] See Julia Elyachar, ‘‘Empowerment Money: The World Bank, Non-governmental Organiza-
tions, and the Value of Culture in Egypt,’’ Public Culture 14, 3 (2002): 493Á513; Sangeeta
Kamat, ‘‘The Privatization of Public Interest: Theorizing NGO Discourse in a Neoliberal
Era,’’ Review of International Political Economy 11 (2001), 155Á76; Tarla Rai Peterson, M. Nils
Peterson, Markus J. Peterson, Stacey A. Allison and David Gore, ‘‘To Play the Fool: Can
Environmental Conservation and Democracy Survive Social Capital?’’ Communication and
Critical/Cultural Studies 3 (2006): 116Á40; Frans J. Schuurman, ‘‘Social Capital: The Politic-
emancipatory Potential of a Disputed Concept,’’ Third World Quarterly 24 (2003).
[34] Aihwa Ong, Neoliberalism as Exception (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).
[35] Barker and Feiner, Liberating Economics.
[36] The choice to focus on US staff members stems in part from an impulse to turn the
ethnographic gaze back upon the institutions of international development, particularly
those in the US context. For insight into the privileging of particular organizational
stakeholders within communication studies, see Karen L. Ashcraft, ‘‘Empowering ‘Profes-
sional’ Relationships: Organizational Communication Meets Feminist Practice,’’ Manage-
ment Communication Quarterly 13 (2000): 386; and Karen L. Ashcraft and April Kedrowicz,
‘‘Self-direction or Social Support? Nonprofit Empowerment and the Tacit Employment
344 S. E. Dempsey
Contract of Organizational Communication Studies,’’ Communication Monographs 69
(2002): 88Á110.
[37] This is consistent with critical organizational communication perspectives, which approach
organizations as ‘‘intersubjective structures of meaning that are produced, reproduced, and
transformed through the ongoing communicative activities of its members.’’ See D. K.
Mumby, ‘‘Power and politics,’’ ed. F. M. Jablin and L. L. Putnam, The New Handbook of
Organizational Communication: Advances in Theory, Research and Methods (Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage, 2001): 585Á623.
[38] John Lofland, David A. Snow, Leon Anderson and Lyn H. Lofland, Analyzing Social Settings:
A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2005); Thomas R.
Lindlof and Bryan C. Taylor, Qualitative Communication Research Methods (Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage, 2004).
[39] In pursuing such research, I share in navigating the dilemmas located in my analysis;
regardless of my goal of seeking more equitable forms of practice, my account inevitably
creates its own politics of knowledge production. Spivak’s larger critique of representation in
the context of intellectual practice is particularly relevant here. See also Joost Van Loon,
‘‘Ethnography: A Critical Turn in Cultural Studies,’’ in Handbook of Ethnography, ed.
P. Atkinson et al. (London: Sage, 2001): 273Á84.
[40] Lindlof & Taylor, Qualitative.
[41] Lofland, Snow, Anderson & Lofland, Analyzing; Lindlof & Taylor, Qualitative.
[42] The terms ‘‘Third World’’ and ‘‘First World’’ and ‘‘North’’ and ‘‘South’’ and ‘‘West’’ and
‘‘East’’ are highly problematic. See Stuart Hall, ‘‘The West and the Rest: Discourse and
power,’’ in Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies, ed. Stuart Hall, David Held, Don
Hubert and Kenneth Thompson (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1996): 276Á320.
[43] Mats Alvesson and Dan Karreman, ‘‘Varieties of Discourse: On the Study of Organizations
through Discourse Analysis,’’ Human Relations 53 (2000): 1125Á49.
[44] Ilan Kapoor, ‘‘Hyper-Self-Reflexive Development? Spivak on Representing the Third World
‘Other,’’’ Third World Quarterly 25 (2004): 627Á47.
[45] Joseph, Against the Romance.
[46] Stanley Deetz, Democracy.
[47] Edward M. Panetta, and Marouf Hasian, Jr., ‘‘Anti-Rhetoric as Rhetoric: The Law and
Economics Movement,’’ Communication Quarterly 42 (1994): 57Á74.
[48] While much of my effort has focused on exploring the articulation of the grassroots with
positive images of the local, there is also value in considering cases in which the local is
judged to be inferior to the global or the international.
[49] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’’ Marxism and the Interpretation of
Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Larry Grossberg (Basingstoke: University of Illinois Press,
1988), 271Á313.
[50] Alcoff, The Problem of Speaking For Others.
[51] In doing so, I extend Deetz’s critique of corporate stakeholder representation to the
nonprofit context. Stanley Deetz, Democracy (1992) and Transforming Communication
[52] For additional insight into the paradoxes of organizational participation, see Cindy Stohl &
George Cheney, ‘‘Participatory Processes/paradoxical Practices: Communication and the
Dilemmas of Organizational Democracy,’’ Management Communication Quarterly 14 (2001):
NGOs, Communicative Labor, and the Work of Grassroots Representation 345
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