Ghosts of Organizations Past

Communities of Organizations as Settings for Change

Dan Ryan
Book Cover

PB: $26.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1255-3
Publication: Jul 15

HC: $95.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1254-6
Publication: May 15

Ebook: $26.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1256-0
Publication: Jul 15

276 pages
5.5 x 8.25
7 tables, 29 figs.

What happens to communities after social organizations pack up and leave?


In Ghosts of Organizations Past, Dan Ryan asks, “Why are urban communities such hard places to implement community improvement programs?” Looking at New Haven, Connecticut, and a now-defunct program called Fighting Back, which was created to build community coalitions against the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, Ryan shows how the normal properties of organizations generate apparent pathologies. He shows how the “ghosts,” or artifacts, of past organizations, both inhibited and enhanced Fighting Back's chances of success.

Ryan draws on concepts from the study of organizations, social capital, and social networks to re-think questions such as “What kind of thing is a community?” and “Why is it so difficult to build community initiatives out of organizations?” He provides a social organizational explanation for problems familiar to anyone who has been involved in community programs, issues that are usually understood as personal incompetence, turf wars, greed, or corruption.

Ghosts of Organizations Past describes the challenges of using organizations to create change in places in dire need of it.

Table of Contents


Part I / From Opportunity to Disaster (and Back Again)
1 The Ghosts of Organizations Past

Part II / Disaster and Opportunity
2 From Disaster to Opportunity
3 From Opportunity to Disaster

Part III / Communities and Organizations
4 What Kind of Thing Is Community?
5 What Kind of Thing Is an Organization?
6 Doing Things with Organizations in Communities

Part IV / Organizing Organizations
7 Doing Things with Organizations: The Cost of Organizational Diversity
8 Doing Things with Organizations: The Cost of System
9 Networks of Garbage Cans: The Amplification of Irrationality
10 Networks and Calendar Noise

Part V / Social Organizational Junkyards
11 Community as Organizational Junkyard
12 Why Can’t Organizations Be Like Us?


About the Author(s)

Dan Ryan is Kathryn P. Hannam Associate Professor at Mills College in Oakland, California, and Adjunct Professor of Technology and Social Science in the Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation at the University of Southern California.