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Citizen Participation and Its Effects in Neighborhood Organizations: The Influence of Perceived Organizational Characteristics and Effectiveness

Ohmer, Mary Louise (2004) Citizen Participation and Its Effects in Neighborhood Organizations: The Influence of Perceived Organizational Characteristics and Effectiveness. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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While contemporary social workers (Johnson, 1998; Schorr, 1997; Weil, 1996) point to a revitalization of community based social work strategies over the past decade that promote the active engagement of residents in poor communities; these efforts have not been accompanied by research that presents clear measurable results (Itzhaky & York, 2002). This project contributes to existing research in community practice by exploring the relationships among citizen participation in neighborhood organizations, perceived organizational characteristics and effectiveness, and participants' personal and collective competencies, and sense of community. The current study is guided by prior research that demonstrates the problems and issues faced by residents in poor neighborhoods today, and the importance of citizen participation as a vehicle for community improvement. Furthermore, several theoretical perspectives were used to explain the nature of citizen participation: the ecological perspective, perceived control, collective efficacy, sense of community, and empowerment theory. A cross sectional, self-report survey design was used to examine citizen participation among participants (N = 124) in four neighborhood organizations in poor communities in Pittsburgh. Respondents' perceptions of their neighborhood organization's characteristics and effectiveness had a weak effect on their participation. However, the more positive respondents' perceptions of their neighborhood organization's characteristics and effectiveness, the greater their perceived effects from participation (i.e., increased personal and collective competencies and sense of community). Furthermore, the more respondents participated in their neighborhood organization, the greater their perceived effects from participation. Finally, the greater respondents' motivation for participation, the more involved they were in their neighborhood organization. The current study demonstrates the importance of social work practice interventions that focus on engaging citizens to improve their communities, and social work research that examines citizen participation in a community context. Social work strategies that analyze and understand the motivation of current and potential participants, and help to build community and organizational capacity, are important for facilitating citizen participation. Furthermore, social work researchers must work with practitioners to analyze interventions in ways that present clear measurable results, use more sophisticated research methodologies, and build a knowledge base upon which social work practitioners can guide their work in poor communities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ohmer, Mary
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSales, Esthersales@pitt.eduSALES
Committee MemberKoeske, Garygkoeske@pitt.eduGKOESKE
Committee MemberColeman, Mortonmc123@pitt.eduMC123
Committee MemberMeadowcroft,
Date: 19 August 2004
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 23 July 2004
Approval Date: 19 August 2004
Submission Date: 2 August 2004
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Citizen Engagement; Collective Efficacy; Community Organizing; Community Practice; Self Efficacy; Sense of Community; Poor Communities; Sociopolitical Control
Other ID:, etd-08022004-152553
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:47


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