The contemporary American peace movement is a mixture of many small and a few large organizations pursuing a wide range of goals. There has been almost no organizational research focused on these peace movement organizations (PMOs) or detailed studies of the goals, values, and activities of a large sample of PMOs.
The activity of these varied PMOs has had limited impact on public policy. Some authors cite the strength of external forces or the conservative American political culture as the key factors in this relative lack of success. There are few facts with which to evaluate these or competing explanations which suggest that the peace movement is not well organized or funded compared to other more successful social movements and, therefore, is less able to influence public policy.
This research is a first step in gathering the comprehensive organizational and supporting data needed to understand the limited political impact of PMOs. This paper reports on the organizational characteristics of PMOs and the relationship between management practices and values, strategies, and goals.
The data were collected in 1988 through a detailed survey mailed to organizations in the Grassroots Peace Directory, a comprehensive list of U.S. peace groups. Five hundred of the 7,700 groups reported annual budgets over $30,000; they were each sent a survey form. A random 5% sample of the remaining 7,200 groups also received the questionnaire. Response rates were 57% and 47% respectively. These two sets of PMOs are referred to in this report as the larger and smaller PMOs.
Findings indicate that 90% of PMOs are small, unstaffed organizations and less than 3% have annual budgets over $100,000. Over two-thirds of the smaller PMOs (67%) and almost half of larger PMOs (47%) were young organizations (less than seven years old) at the time of the survey and the overwhelming percentage of both groups was less than seventeen years old (82% and 77% respectively).
It was found that there are some substantial differences in management practices between large and small PMOs. For example, over half (55%) of the larger PMOs reported a clearly defined structure (agreed upon rules, procedures, and methods for accountability), whereas only 28% of the smaller PMOs reported such a structure. However, there is no systematic variation in operations and management practices related to values, strategies or goals for either set of PMOs. Variations in operation are related to budget size and year of founding.
Both sets of PMOs report similar values, strategies, and goals. High percentages report ''commitment to nonviolence,'' "opposition to all wars," and a desire to "influence U.S. foreign policy" as important values. Over half of both groups report "changing U.S. consciousness so that war is no longer a viable option in international relations," "promoting social justice in the U.S. and worldwide," and ''eliminating war as a tool of American foreign policy" as major goals.
When asked to specify the most important goals, "promoting social justice" was chosen by over a quarter of the larger PMOs and over a third of the smaller PMOs; "promoting personal peace and commitment to nonviolence among our members and in the general public" was chosen by a third of the smaller PMOs as a most important goal. These two were chosen as most important goals by the largest percentages of the PMOs.
The sub-set which reports that promoting social justice is not a goal is almost as large as the group of PMOs which select social justice as a most important goal; many of the PMOs in this "social justice not a goal" sub-set work on nuclear weapons and arms control issues. A substantial portion are national groups based in Washington, D.C. These and other data indicate a segmentation of the peace movement corresponding to goal orientation which may relate to the overall effectiveness of the movement. This difference may also reflect a reasonable' division of labor within the movement. These data on differentiation or fragmentation within the movement need to be analyzed in connection with data on the educational, political, electoral and coalition-building activities of PMOs.
Smaller PMOs ambitiously select more goals as major goals and choose a wider range of "most important'' goals than do larger PMOs. This significant finding reflects a lack of realism with respect to the number and types of goals that a largely volunteer organization with limited resources can hope to achieve.
Small PMOs also put very little emphasis on such tactics as changing Congress, educating influential elites, or strengthening international organizations. This approach does not seem well suited to their avowed aspirations to change U.S. foreign policy, bring about social change in the U.S. as a prior condition for peace, and promote social justice in the U.S. and worldwide. It suggests a nonpolitical and nonorganizational perspective on U.S. social structure and the process of social change which may contribute to the limited effectiveness of PMOs in general.
Subsequent reports from these data will analyze the educational, political, electoral, and coalition activities of these PMOs. Desirable future research would include studies which compare PMOs with other cause-oriented or advocacy organizations to assess which are more likely to be well organized, follow effective management practices, and select realistic goals. It is hoped that a similar survey of PMOs will be repeated within a few years to ascertain the trends in organizational development within the peace movement.
Colwell, M.A. Culleton (1989). Organizational and management characteristics of peace groups. Working paper (University of San Francisco. Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management); no. 8. San Francisco, CA: Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management, College of Professional Studies, University of San Francisco.