Abstract

Relations between parents of children with developmental disabilities and other community members on agency boards can be difficult to negotiate. In this comparative study of the boards of three community agencies, we examined the forces that influence the quality of parent–community member relations. The results suggest that when differences between groups are acknowledged and respected at the same time that similarities are recognized and valued, board operations are more likely to be successful and focused on providing effective services. The case descriptions included here suggest that an organization's ability to manage the tension between intergroup differences and similarities is influenced by (a) organizational history of intergroup relations, (b) group identification, and (c) organizational practices that bridge group differences. Action implications are discussed.

We appreciate the substantial efforts of our colleague Joyce Skoog and our staff of the Low Incidence Developmental Disabilities Project (Eileen Altman, Virginia Karvounis, John Orr, and Virginia Perkowitz) in gathering case study information. The financial and administrative support of the Illinois Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities; the Institute on Disabilities and Human Development, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC); Department of Psychology (UIC); and the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities made this project possible. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not of the sponsoring agencies. We value the thoughtful comments of Holly Barnes, David Jopp, Willi Horner Johnson, Linda Preston, Karen Rothstein, and Georgina Tegart on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We are grateful to William Schiller for his skillful work on the figures. An earlier case study of one of the three organizations that is examined here comparatively was published by Bond and Keys (1993). The organization names used in this paper are fictitious in order to protect confidentiality.

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