Nowadays, it is not uncommon in the third sector to hear managers use the phrase “this is not a democracy”.
Why do charity workers accept such utterances from their leaders? My guess is that it speaks to the adage that ‘making decisions by committee’ is unproductive, painfully slow, relationally charged and chaotic; that consultation breeds “paralysis by analysis”; and that “leaders lead, followers follow”. On the other hand, it is clearly a linguistic device used by managers for exercising and reinforcing power.
For me, this is a good example of how managerialism as an organising discourse is not only at odds with the values of many charities, many underlying business assumptions and values are not transferable.
I hope I’m right in thinking that many charitable concerns DO hold the values of democracy and participation as sacrosanct. As such, invoking such a transactional-contractual business value in this context, not only goes against most charities’ intrinsic ideals of self-determination, fairness and justice, if allowed to go unchecked, it is likely to have the adverse effect of replicating the social, economic and political systems they were set up to reform or transform.
Needless-to-say, not ‘walking the talk’ is a big detriment to charities ability to obtain support and to successfully address social problems.
If we are not for democracy, what are we for? Without democratic ideals, what do we become?