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Why Greenpeace Is More Confrontational Than The Sierra Club

Where organizations come from and where they are based tends to change how they protest, and Americans are more meek and mild.

Why Greenpeace Is More Confrontational Than The Sierra Club
Greenpeace via Shutterstock
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Ever wonder why Greenpeace stages such elaborate stunts while other environmental organizations take a more muted approach? It might have something to do with the culture of their home countries.

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A new political science study, There’s no place like home: Explaining international NGO advocacy, claims that the level of confrontational versus cooperative strategy used by international nonprofits reflects the social norms where they’re based. The report explains:

Drawing on insights from sociology and political science, we argue that there is substantial variation among wealthy industrialized democracies in the availability and structure of material resources as well as the domestic institutional environment surrounding INGO work. Together, these national-level factors shape INGOs’ choice of the level of confrontation or conciliation that they adopt in their advocacy.

What does this mean in practical terms? U.S.-based NGOs are less confrontational because employees often go on to work in government–and because many of them get lots of government funding. That’s not the case in countries like the U.K. and France, and so NGOs feel free to be as confrontational as they want.

Neither method is inherently better than the other in getting results. But according to the researcher behind the study–Amanda Murdie, assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri’s College of Arts and Science–the results indicate that people should look at the home country of NGOs they choose to support in addition to their overall mission.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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