The New School University

New York City, United States

The New School University

New York City, United States

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Kohl-Arenas E.,The New School University
Geography Compass | Year: 2011

This paper explores the current debates surrounding how large-scale poverty programs structure the actions and strategies of regional community-based institutions. I specifically interrogate how processes of professionalization and 'participatory' ideas promoted through public and private funders are negotiated by institutional 'grantees', and ultimately structure the ways in which historic social movement organizations build institutions and organizing strategies. A review of the major debates surrounding 'participatory development' in the fields of critical development studies and American poverty scholarship is approached through a specific case study in California's Central Valley. By highlighting the case of the historic Farm Worker Movement and its' legacy institutions I show how social movement actors negotiate theories of participation, institutional structures, and regional alliances promoted through public and private funding. It is argued that organizing the poor through participatory philanthropic initiatives provides a certain range of opportunities as well as firm limits to changing the political-economic relationships that produce regional poverty. Both the consensus based approach popular with the most recent philanthropic initiatives and the self-help model of the 1960s bring a certain range of political openings and firm limits proscribed by what funders will and won't do in the context of funding social movement institutions to confront structures of economic inequality produced through industrial capital. © 2011 The Author. Geography Compass © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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