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U.S. Department of Labor Futurework
  Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century
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Passion with an Umbrella:
Grassroots Activism in the Workplace

Maureen Scully and Amy Segal

Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Task Force Working Paper #WP13

Prepared for the May 25-26, 1999, conference “Symposium on Changing Employment Relations and New Institutions of Representation”

September 1, 1999

Data Analysis

All of the data we drew from came from interview texts. We therefore did not observe change occurring, but were interested in the language the activists used to characterize their efforts, the sense they made of their actions, and the changes they attributed to those actions. In trying to explicitly draw the links between language and action, we analyzed the discourse they invoked to describe their collective efforts and how that language was tied to the specific actions they took. We recognize that in many cases the language they used constituted the actions that they had taken. We also acknowledge that we were only able to understand their change efforts through the activists' linguistic act of explaining those actions to us. We therefore treat language in this paper as both representational and constitutive of reality.

Once the interviews were completed, we both read through the transcripts and our interview notes several times, meeting regularly to discuss the common stories and language we saw across the interviews. Using the basic questions, outlined above, we developed skeletal answers from the data. We then used Hyper Research, an on-line coding system, to assist us in collecting all of the references to each particular question. As part of our analysis, we also searched the data for examples of disconfirmation of our expected findings or common themes. For example, we looked to see whether there were individuals who felt that change occurred from the top down or who felt there were no risks entailed in affiliating with activist groups and getting involved in diversity. We also searched for silences in the data on particular topics. Our findings draw on this thorough knowledge of the data.

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