, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 547-571
Date: 20 Sep 2007

For love and money: Organizations’ creative responses to multiple environmental logics

Abstract

The recent “inhabited institutions” research stream in organizational theory reinvigorates new institutionalism by arguing that organizations are not merely the instantiation of environmental, institutional logics “out there,” where organizational actors seamlessly enact preconscious scripts, but are places where people and groups make sense of, and interpret, institutional vocabularies of motive. This article advances the inhabited institutions approach through an inductive case study of a transitional housing organization called Parents Community. This organization, like other supportive direct service organizations, exists in an external environment relying increasingly on federal funding. Most scholars studying this sector argue that as federal monies expand to pay for these organizations’ services, non-profit organizations will be forced to become ever more bureaucratic and rationalized. However, I find that three key service departments at Parents Community respond in multiple ways to this external environment, depending on each department members’ creative uses of institutional logics and local meanings, which emerge from their professional commitments, personal interests, and interactional, on-the-ground decision making. By looking carefully at these three departments’ variable responses to the external environment, we have a better map for seeing how human agency is integrated into organizational dynamics for this and other organizations.