Cohen offers a new framework for analyzing social projects and local social activism. Rather than look at how single projects are designed and managed to evaluate their impact, the approach calls for analyzing fields of social action: policy and politics, institutional behavior, social networks among policymakers and practitioners, and availability of funding and other resources. Combined, they affect the conceptualization of a social problem and the design and practice of social intervention. More broadly, through circumscribing the range of thinking about social problems, they delimit possibilities to generate social change. Analyzing fields also allows for linking macro-level trends in areas like policy to decision-making within individual organizations and the effectiveness of projects at instigating the desired transformation in individual and collective behavior.
Working together, policymakers, individual activists, nonprofit organizations, and staff in public institutions like schools and hospitals can critique and alter fields to challenge more effectively social problems. This collaboration, in turn, affects how social policies are designed and, ultimately, the politics of social change.
Table of Contents
1. Bridging Policy and Practice
2. Assessing the Context of Social Action
3. Analyzing Fields of Social Action
Shana Cohen is a Research Associate with the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Cohen’s research interests include the politics of social action, inequality and political identity, nonprofit management, and community development.