Author: Ruelle, Olivier Herve
Title: Public interest and sensemaking : how social activists make sense of their engagement
Advisors: Herold, David K. (APSS)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2018
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Non-governmental organizations -- China
Employee motivation
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: [13], 222 pages
Language: English
Abstract: There were 699,000 registered social organizations in China at the end of 2016. The motivations of volunteers active in these organizations and in millions of unregistered associations have been addressed by a number of scholars. The motivations of full-time practitioners, however, remain poorly understood. This dissertation addresses this question by adopting a social constructivist approach. It applies the concept of sensemaking, borrowed from organizational studies, to understand how individuals working in social organizations make sense of their engagement. Taking cues from individual narratives, it explores the reasons they offer to explain their engagement, how their involvement contributes to shaping their identities, and which ideal-type values lie at the hearts of their belief systems. As these values and the motivations driving their participation encounter legitimation issues and other trying realities, individuals deploy various strategies to make sense of these challenges. These sensemaking strategies have a direct impact on the whole sector and its development. Two main arguments are advanced in this dissertation. First, sensemaking provides a solid foundation to understand individuals' motivations for working in social organizations. Second, the concept of public interest (gongyi), firmly grounded in the participants' own perspectives, reflects their motivations--and the realities in which social organizations operate in China today--more adequately than terms such as "charity" or "philanthropy." Ultimately, this dissertation proposes an alternative to the civil society framework to better understand the context in which social organizations and their members operate in China today.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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