Since Gamson's (1975) landmark study of social movement organizations, scholars have debated whether it is more advantageous to concentrate on a narrow or diverse set of issues. This paper recasts this debate in terms of organizational survival. Drawing on ideas from theories of category spanning and social movements, we argue that an organization that occupies a distinct niche conveys its purpose more effectively, which increases its chances of survival when compared to more diverse SMOs. Using a longitudinal dataset on environmental social movement organizations (ESMOs), we find organizations that span multiple and distant issue categories are significantly more likely to disband, compared to those with a more specialized focus. Other characteristics of ESMOs affect their survival rate in ways that are strikingly similar to for-profits and other types of nonprofits. Larger and more complex ESMOs benefit from economies of scale, while younger, less established organizations are more likely to perish.
THE RISK OF OCCUPYING A BROAD NICHE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIAL MOVEMENT ORGANIZATIONS*
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Susan Olzak, Erik W. Johnson; THE RISK OF OCCUPYING A BROAD NICHE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIAL MOVEMENT ORGANIZATIONS. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 1 June 2019; 24 (2): 177–198. doi: https://doi.org/10.17813/1086-671X-24-2-177
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