over the initiatives’ funding. Money—a critical form of power—is withheld from people with lived experience, although this is a supposed exercise in power-sharing. Within these channels, powerholders may also reorient individuals towards more moderate reforms. Rules may dictate, for example, that the body cannot engage in activities that are central to a movement's work. In the world of child welfare, this might mean that a channel developed in response to calls to change neglect statutes may dictate that the group does not engage in lobbying, despite it being a central tactic in advocating for legal change. Alternatively, powerholders may create focus groups or convene advisory boards as a means for rubber-stamping reforms that are palatable to their own agenda. Since these channels often have no formal governance mechanisms to ensure that feedback is integrated into the plan forward, powerholders may exploit these individuals for their endorsement and subsequently discard their advice. Invitations to join decision-making channels may be hard to pass up. Inclusion may appear to be an opportunity to leverage the credibility, resources, and political connections of more powerful institutions to secure movement wins. It’s especially tempting when that inclusion is well-compensated. Compensation is an intractable problem within asymmetrical power relations. Paying lower-income individuals for their time can ensure equitable inclusion, prevent financial barriers to participation, and honor their expertise. But funding structures that place authority for releasing funds solely with powerholders may intensify asymmetrical power relations. 18 I have seen this firsthand. In my younger years, when money was tight and I was a fledgling advocate participating in well- funded working groups, I feared dissenting from powerholders would mean risking the financial compensation I desperately needed. Another paradoxical challenge of inclusion is the psychology of procedural justice. Individuals who participate in decision-making are more likely to feel ownership over the process and resulting decisions, even when the outcome is not fully satisfactory to the individual. 19
Ultimately, these channels that begin as responses to radical calls for change result in a moderated plan for reform. This can best be illustrated by the endless creation of new working groups and committees on racial equity in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Sociologists studied one such partnership, which was a collaboration between community members and a child welfare agency to design and implement a solution to the overrepresentation of Black children. After a robust analysis, they concluded that it was “symbolic and the result of diversity without inclusion, that caused further exploitation of the Black community [and] resemble[d] tokenist approaches rather than meaningful and effective ways for addressing overrepresentation and racial disparity.” 20 Stage Three: Mobilization Ends Due to The Illusion That Powerholders Are Addressing Their Demands The final stage of co-optation is “salience control.” 21 The use of the movement’s language fosters trust within the community. The inclusion of community members—what some have called ‘a good face in a high place’— gives the illusion that they are the recipients of redistributed political power. Powerholders outwardly appear to be adequately addressing the demands, which erodes the movement's salience. The set of injustices that originally galvanized the movement remain intact. Nothing fundamentally changes. ______________ 18 Boatswain-Kyte, Alicia & Trocmé, Nico & Esposito, Tonino & Fast, Elizabeth. (2021). Child protection agencies collaborating with grass-root community organizations: partnership or tokenism?. Journal of Public Child Welfare. 1-27. 10.1080/15548732.2021.1891184. 19 Rick L. Lawrence, Steven E. Daniels & George H. Stankey (1997) Procedural justice and public involvement in natural resource decision making, Society & Natural Resources, 10:6, 577-589, DOI: 10.1080/08941929709381054 20 Boatswain-Kyte, Alicia & Trocmé, Nico & Esposito, Tonino & Fast, Elizabeth. (2021). Child protection agencies collaborating with grass-root community organizations: partnership or tokenism?. Journal of Public Child Welfare. 1-27. 10.1080/15548732.2021.1891184 21 Coy, Patrick G., and Timothy Hedeen. “A Stage Model of Social Movement Co-Optation: Community Mediation in the United States.” The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 3, 2005, pp. 405–35. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/ stable/4120946.
14 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022
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