This paper is presented as part of the H-Urban Seminar on the History of Community Organizing and Community-Based Development in the 1995-1996 academic year. For additional information on the seminar, send e-mail to listserv@uicvm.uic.edu with the message: GET COMM-ORG ANNOUNCE or send e-mail to Wendy Plotkin at U13972@uicvm.uic.edu.

For information on how to obtain a reprint of this paper from the Yale Program on Non-Profit Organizations, or other materials related to the paper including on-line discussion about it, send e-mail to listserv@uicvm.uic.edu with the message: GET TOYNBEE ANNOUNCE We appreciate Carl Milofsky and Albert Hunter making this paper available to the seminar.


Copyright (c) 1995 by Carl Milofsky and Albert Hunter, all rights reserved. This work may be copied in whole or in part, with proper attribution, as long as the copying is not-for-profit "fair use" for research, commentary, study, or teaching. For other permission, please contact the authors.


Carl Milofsky

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Bucknell University

Lewisburg, PA 17837

(717) 514-3468


Albert Hunter

Department of Sociology

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL 60201

(708) 491-3804

This paper was prepared for presentation at a special meeting of the Voluntary Action History Society, London, January, 1993. Research for this paper was supported by the Changing Dimensions of Trusteeship Project, Program on Nonprofit Organizations, Yale University, funded by the Lilly Endowment.



Toynbee Hall, the original university settlement located in East London, is both among the famous social service organizations in the world and an example of a "permanently failing organization." This paper shows that the present malaise afflicting Toynbee is but the latest manifestation of an organizational confusion and fiscal anemia that has plagued the organization throughout its history, even during the period when R.H. Tawney ran Children's Country Holiday Fund, William Beveridge was Vice-Warden, and Beatrice Webb regularly came by for tea. Recent critics in the U.K. have used the example of Toynbee as an argument for more clearly defined and stringently applied accounting procedures for charitable organizations. This paper argues, in contrast, that the genius of Toynbee rests in its very confusion and disorganization. The organization has a subtle and powerful organizational culture that resists rationalization. It is precisely the persistence of this culture that has enabled Toynbee to be one of the most powerful sources of social innovation in the Anglo-American tradition for providing social services.


Certain nonprofit organizations stand as cultural icons, enormously valuable to a society simply because of their symbolic importance. Whatever the value of the nonprofit sector as a whole, organizations like Harvard or Oxford, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the social sciences at the University of Chicago, Massachusetts General Hospital, the New York Philharmonic, the Shakespeare Theatre or the National Theatre in London, Chartres Cathedral, and the subject of this paper, Toynbee Hall, are exemplars of their institutional type. Most dominate their field because they continue to maintain a tradition of excellence and they dominate their industry.

This is not true for Toynbee Hall, which might best be described as a "permanently failing organization." (2) However, like these other organizations, it remains instantly recognizable to practitioners in the field of social work as the first, the most famous, and probably the most influential example of a great social innovation, the settlement house. Toynbee Hall was founded in 1884 in the East End of London in an area that then was a Jewish ghetto and red light district. Jack the Ripper committed some of his crimes in the alley that runs behind the building and nearby is the Isle of Dogs, the historic port district of London housing Canary Wharf and the East India Company docks and the Cockney dock workers.

Toynbee was begun partially as a religious mission but primarily as an activist initiative by graduates of Oxford and Cambridge to set up a laboratory for social reform where they would have direct contact with the poor. Young men moved into rooms at the settlement house and lived among the slum residents. They created programs, helped neighborhood people set up their own groups, befriended local workers, and over the following half century ran a variety of intellectual discussion groups that shaped construction of the welfare state in England. Toynbee was a model of Victorian social reform that Jane Addams and other reformers imported to America and enshrined in settlement houses like Hull House and the Northwestern University Settlement in Chicago and the Henry Street Settlement in New York. The impact of the settlement house model was different in the U.S. than in the United Kingdom, however. In the U.K., the voluntary service tradition of social work declined after the first decades of the Twentieth Century as William Beveridge and his associates constructed the British welfare state. Government took over functions that organizations like Toynbee had offered privately as policy formation and implementation became increasingly centralized. This undermined the function of social work organizations and slowed emergence of social work as a profession. Because government did not take over social welfare programs in the U.S., [settlement houses] played a continuing, active role in the development of the profession of social work. At the turn of the century, settlements provided a venue for volunteer social service, particularly by women. After the turn of the century a split occured in America whereby some settlement house workers chose to professionalize their work and they created schools of social work like the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Others continued to champion "amateur" volunteer social service like the Community Service Society in New York. Toynbee and the settlement houses that followed its model are credited with launching the field of social work in the United States.(3) Toynbee, thus, had enormous impact but the changes Toynbee spawned mostly left the organization untouched and unchanged. The architects of the British welfare state after spending time working in the settlement left and created programs that made the organization seem irrelevant. Its most direct organizational descendants grew up in America, too far away to nurture the parent organization. Toynbee continued on housed in a modest building on Commercial Street in a neighborhood that continues to be a red light district and a home for new migrants to London-now they are primarily immigrants from Bangladesh. This paper tells about the organization today, and describes how that the organization limps along with severe financial troubles and a hodgepodge of eight programs that do not quite hang together in a coherent way. Yet despite an impression of ineffectiveness, we show that the people who work at Toynbee follow ideals which we call "amateur social reform" and "anti-institutionalism" that are surprisingly contemporary. They represent values that are very close to the ideals of the supposedly innovative service learning movement in America. The similarity of Toynbee values and service learning might simply be a coincidence, especially if we accept the claim that Toynbee is ineffectual and a failure.

But on a closer look we see something different. Amateur social reform and anti-institutionalism have been characteristic of Toynbee from the beginning, and important to its innovative undertakings. Claims of failure arise from financial shortfalls that have affected the organization at certain points in time, and by its being out of step with dominant fads in social reform at one moment in history or another. By seeing that Toynbee's central values represent an unbroken tradition of reform going back to the founding of Toynbee we come to see that the organization's "failure" is a short-term affair while its success comes from the wedding of an approach to social service that has enduring appeal with an idiosyncratic oragnizational form that allows the values to continue guiding programs. In this paper, we hope to show why Toynbee's practices, although seemingly inefficient and outdated, actually are resilient, ingenious, and even forward-looking. At the same time, the ideals of Victorian reform that help us understand service learning are disruptive organizationally. More accurately, they are disruptive in terms of current ideas about how efficient organizations should work. We argue, however. that those ideals are central to a distinctive organizational culture, a culture that gives the organization a stubborn capacity to endure. Organizational theorists do not sufficiently value organizational traditions as resources that are valuable both in giving entities unexpected resilience and in undergirding a strong sense of mission. Mission is critically important for nonprofits since what gives them energy is commitment from and involvement by support communities. We overvalue money and fiscal accountability as measures of organizational success and efficiency.

Icon and Permanently Failing Organization

That Toynbee Hall is at once an icon and a permanently failing organization poses two questions that are central to this paper. The first has to do with how we ought to, or how we do, view tradition and the cultural capital possessed by an organization as a factor when we study its organizational dynamics. Saying that Toynbee is a permanently failing organization leads us to ask whether, or to what extent, Toynbee has been preserved because it is symbolically important to people who have nothing to do with the day-to-day life of the organization. Is Toynbee permanently failing because no one will mercifully kill it off, but at the same time no one will take responsibility for making it effective or fiscally sound? Is this, in turn, a model we might use for understanding other nonprofit organizations that have achieved a measure of symbolic importance but that are inefficient, irresponsible, or irrelevant in their actual day-to-day activities? Such an interpretation might cause us to ask why our culture so values these white elephants, nonprofit organizations that have some meaning to protectors of tradition but little value when it comes to actually providing a useful service. The second question posed by the juxtaposition of its fame and its seeming ineffectiveness puts the case of Toynbee Hall in a different light. Is this really a permanently failing organization? Perhaps the seeming ineffectiveness of the historic settlement house is a product of the frame of reference applied in contemporary social policy analysis.

In the short run, the Warden (or executive director) of Toynbee Hall nearly always has trouble getting the budget in balance. Viewed over a longer sweep of history, the very things that make Toynbee seem inefficient turn out to have protected it from organizational disasters that have befallen more "rational" and "practical" organizations. We will talk especially of the persistence of elitism among members of the council (or board) at Toynbee, how the council resisted a movement to democratize governance structures, a movement that swept members of the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres (BASSAC) in the 1960s. One informant suggested to us that those democratic reforms now appear responsible for widespread organizational failures among BASSAC members. The elitism and conservatism Toynbee showed in the 1960s is, in hindsight, an important reason it survives while other, similar organizations fail.

We shall argue that while Toynbee is permanently failing in terms of the short-term concerns that preoccupy policy makers and plague the executive directors of organizations, over the long term the organizational culture at Toynbee (chaotic and decentralized though it is to the frustration of many) has proven resilient. Over the years it has been a source of ongoing innovation both for the organization and for the broader society, and it advances a perspective on social change that has enduring value. We note, for example that after having been out of favor with policy-makers for three-quarters of a century, the settlement house idea is back in vogue. The notion of an organization bringing university people into low income neighborhoods and working with students, faculty, and researchers to help them develop a personal relationship to situations of poverty, hardship, injustice, and intractable challenges to social change has reemerged in the 1990s as a powerful current of change in Washington and on college campuses. As Harkavy points out, there are strong similarities between the victorian social reform movement that led to Toynbee's founding in 1884 and the service learning movement in America today. (4) We cannot easily decide whether Toynbee is permanently failing or a tenacious organization that has managed to institutionalize its founding mission in such a way that the basic structure, processes, and form of organization are preserved despite daunting problems that confront one Warden after another. As we discuss the case, we shall see that there is no need to choose between these alternative interpretations. The judgment that Toynbee is failing arises primarily because that determination is based on certain structural assumptions about how organizations should operate (5) -- assumptions that clash with Toynbee's internal processes.

Toynbee Versus the Conventional Model

For example, we assume that organizations provide a service, or a bundle of services, and that the resources they use to survive and legitimate themselves represents an exchange for those services. This would be true even if donors provided operating capital that allowed a nonprofit to provide charity services. Toynbee diverges from this model, however, because, although it provides services, its program directors are emphatic in saying that the organization is not a service provider per se, or at least not in the conventional sense. Toynbee's goal is to stimulate social innovation. Such innovations do provide services, but they do so as the initial, exploratory part of what program leaders hope will be larger endeavors in social reform that seek to eventually be spun off to become independent organizations as happened with Legal Aid and the Citizens' Advice Bureaux. Toynbee could probably be made solvent if it converted to being a conventional service provider. But then it would no longer be the organization that it is and has been for the last century -- a purveyor of new ideas and practices.

This fact about the organization has far-reaching implications. First and most obviously, because it does not "sell" services in the conventional way, the organization has no convenient way of raising funds, and so it has a more or less chronic problem getting its balance sheet to work. Second, because the point of the organization is to provide an environment in which people can hatch new, speculative ideas about social services that might have a market, it is very hard to attract venture capital. One might, however, argue that one should not make such venture capital available (through a huge endowment, for example), since one of the tests for a new program is whether it can find the resources to support an enduring, independent role for itself. Third, the goal of encouraging speculative, innovative social programs nearly guarantees that Toynbee will have an organizational structure that we might charitably call de-centralized. Anarchic and chaotic might be more apt descriptions. Every program affiliated with Toynbee faces an irony of survival that balances the elite character of the parent against an effort to legitimate the service as a true people's organization, serving the most needy. (6) Programs find that binding themselves to Toynbee is useful when it comes to raising money and gaining a physical space in which to operate. But the association is more troublesome when it comes to convincing the poor people of East London where Toynbee is located (the fifth poorest district in England) to use services. For this reason, program directors tend to adopt an anti-organizational style. That is, they resist being controlled or directed by the Warden or any other central office. The Warden, in turn, has very little power to govern or direct constituent programs, and we found more than a little confusion among everybody about just which activities are "owned" by Toynbee as opposed to by some allied but independent charity, like the Stepney Children's Fund. No one we met, from clients to the lowest staff employees to members of the council, was entirely sure what it is that Toynbee does. This is frustrating to most participants (despite their own contributions to the situation), since they tend to assume that administrative weakness is one of the reasons Toynbee seems so ineffective. We differ; in our view, and as we shall argue below, the confusion everyone sees is an essential part of the "genius" behind Toynbee's survival.

Fourth, these factors together make the roles of the Warden and the Chairman of the Council pivotal and problematic. The Warden must perform a balancing act, juggling a difficult internal governance task (mobilizing and distributing scarce resources) and continuing to maintain Toynbee's image as a vanguard of social reform. While the organization for many years was fortunate in being directed by charismatic, independently wealthy, ideologically driven, and widely known Wardens, the job became increasingly difficult as Toynbee's model of social change fell out of favor. The organization has been saved by a series of charismatic, well-connected, tenacious Council Chairmen. (7)

Finally, one of the great peculiarities of Toynbee Hall is that it insists on following a conception of social change and reform that has been absolutely out of favor through most of the Twentieth Century. An early, very influential cohort of recent college graduates who lived at Toynbee Hall in the first decade of this century are mostly responsible both for the fame of the organization and for the demise of the social change model it represented. William Beveredge was vice-Warden at the time. After he left, he was the central figure in creating the British Welfare State, an approach to social services that placed the state at the center of service provision and depicted private, charitable, individually-oriented change schemes as elitist barriers to basic reform and change. This perspective not only informed the creation [of] a vast array of social welfare programs; it also penetrated universities that at the beginning were the primary supporters of Toynbee Hall.

A critique of Toynbee that began with the Beveredge-Tawney group is that social reform is only effective if it attacks structural problems. Giving children a week in the country is futile according to the critique because the conditions of poverty that cause them to need respite remain unchanged. Children are shaped by the long-term, negative effects of class oppression and destructive socialization. Those were the problems critics wanted to attack. The personal, small-scale efforts Toynbee undertook are a waste of money and effort. As such they were attacked as more an entertaiment for the elites who would spend time slumming in the East End than a benefit for the poor people who lived in the Whitechapel neighborhood surround the facility. As social science and policy analysis trained its vision on societal problems, Toynbee came to be seen as an anachronism. One of the peculiarities of life at Toynbee is that it calls itself *the* university settlement in East London, but it has neither student interns nor any enduring relationship to any institution of higher learning-much less to Oxford or Cambridge whose college coats of arms ring the great hall.

We came to Toynbee Hall as the vanguard of a new university movement to put students from elite colleges into field settings where they could work with poor people. It was disorienting to find an organization plodding along, holding to its hopelessly outmoded notions of social innovation, research, and social change, and to find that its *traditions* so much match our own "forward looking" ideas about how American universities should change. At a time when service learning activists on American campuses and the Clinton administration in Washington are struggling to find formulae for institutionalizing service learning, it was odd to place our student interns with an organization that has little to offer but its deeply institutionalized commitment to amateur social innovation.

The lesson for observers of nonprofit organizations is that tradition and cultural property have real value. Great institutions endure not just because they are symbolically important for the larger society. They also endure because their organizational structure puts values to practice. The practical arrangements that result have a certain tenacious endurance. One of the challenges to researchers is to learn how this melding of values and distinctive organizational structures comes about. This paper represents one such effort.


In 1905 a young man, later to be the famous economic historian R.H. Tawney[,] took up residence at Toynbee Hall, the university settlement house in the Whitechapel section of East London. He lived there for two years and was part of a group of young men, recent college graduates, who would become leaders of social reform and social criticism in Britain. Canon Barnett, the founder of Toynbee Hall, had hired William Beveridge -- later the architect of the British welfare system -- as vice-Warden with the explicit purpose of overhauling the Victorian ethos of social reform that had governed at Toynbee since its founding in 1884. Helping in this reconceptualization were A.M. Carr-Saunders, who became a leading British sociologist. This group was part of the vanguard that shaped English socialism in the Christian and Fabian traditions. In the Enquirers Club and the "Toynbee Record" this group helped formulate the program of social reform that would fundamentally alter the social welfare role of government.

Tawney's job at Toynbee was to be head of the Children's Country Holiday Fund. This was an organization that arranged two-week vacations in the country for children from the London slums. Upwards of 10,000 children enjoyed these holidays each summer, and there was widespread support for this activity among wealthy Londoners. Although Tawney and his socialist colleagues doubted the enduring value of these respites from inner-city life, believing instead that the causes of unemployment and poverty resided in the social, political, and economic structure of English society, "fresh air" programs were nonetheless strongly supported popular programs in the older Victorian reform ethos. The Victorian reformers, the group responsible for Toynbee's creation, valued individual contact between members of the wealthier classes and the poor, believing that education, moral instruction, and relief from degrading conditions of inner city life would foster self-help and self-improvement among the poor.


We mention these early days of Toynbee Hall and the role of one of its great alumnae because visiting Toynbee Hall today, one of the most vigorous programs one encounters is the children's holiday program, now sponsored by the Stepney Children's Fund. This program is startlingly Victorian in its structure and ethos. It has been for the last several years the main program for children run by Toynbee Hall. It is directed by a retired army officer, Bob LaVaillant, who describes himself as an "amateur" social worker (though he is paid and is quite devoted to the calling of social work). One of the main staff assistants we met was a young man, recently graduated from college, who has taken up residence in East London and who planned soon to leave for additional graduate training. We came to know of this program because American students from Bucknell University have received internship placements at the Stepney Children's Fund, coming over during the summer to help out with the country holiday program. One of the prime sponsors of the program is Lord Northborn, a Toynbee Council member, who has allowed part of his country estate to be turned into a permanent summer camp for children from the East End. Aside from these obvious parallels, what most makes Toynbee seem Victorian is that it persists in being an organization for "amateurs". The notion of amateurism given to us by Toynbee staff members is a term of art defined in the negative. Toynbee is an amateur organization because it is not *professional*. Professionalism has taken on a particular meaning in social services. Professionals receive university training which certifies them to work in a particular area of service. Many professional groups have lobbied government successfully so that only licensed practitioners are allowed to provide services, or so that government funds can be used only in programs that employ certified practitioners. Professionals by their nature are specialists, concerning themselves with particular problems rather than the whole life situations of clients.

Toynbee programs are amateur ones because their directors were not qualified for the job by having taken university courses and they have not received certification. What qualified them for the job usually was a willingness to volunteer and put a lot of energy into getting some activity up and running. Being effective at this work, individuals worked their way into permanent supervision of an activity. Toynbee programs also are amateur because they are generally not supported by government funds. This is unusual in the U.K. since until recently social services have been heavily subsidized by government and, in comparison to the U.S. (although *not* in comparison with most other countries in the world), the philanthropic sector is small and poorly funded. Toynbee programs are supported by money gifts from individuals, by income from endowments or property, and by grants from charitable trusts (which would be called foundations in the U.S.) Toynbee programs avoid public funding because directors view that kind of money as politically tainted and unnecessarily encumbered by regulations. At least until recently, avoiding public funding left Toynbee staff free to deal with the whole client and to create programs as they were needed, rather than waiting for the government and the bureaucracy to address some local social problem.(9) To say that Toynbee Hall is an amateur organization, thus, is a serious statement. In America, amateurism might be equated with unpaid work, or casualness, or lack of sophistication. Toynbee's notion works in sharp opposition to the dominant philosophy of social intervention and change that prevails in the U.K. While Toynbee staff speak with impatience and disapproval of the bureaucracy and the political hacks that run many social programs, social policy professionals view Toynbee with equal disapproval. Toynbee staff are not integrated into the social services system, so the services they provide are ad hoc, and somewhat disconnected from the system of comprehensive social services. The kinds of things Toynbee programs try to do seem hopelessly outmoded and ineffective. Being amateurs, staff members seem to have little awareness of or sympathy for the sophisticated ideas of contemporary social science. Their contrarinesss is heightened by the seeming poor management of Toynbee and by the way the organization teeters on the brink of bankruptcy and malfeasance.

While we immediately thought of these criticisms (being professional social scientists ourselves) when we first visited Toynbee Hall, we gradually came to see that "amateurism" at Toynbee was not synonymous with "bad practice." Rather, the organization has a distinctive philosophy that is translated, perhaps in refracted form, into its programs. The philosophy suffers since, with so few other organizations in England following this path, the intellectual premises that underlie Toynbee's work are neither very well articulated nor widely broadcast. Also, under the current regime it is very difficult to raise the funds needed to run programs, and so the buildings and rooms of Toynbee are shabby and poorly staffed. The organization radiates a sense of decline and failure. Despite these discouraging features, as we spent more time there we came to understand the curious power of the Toynbee ethos. That ethos is rooted in the Victorian conception of community organizing.

The Victorian Model of Community Organizing

Toynbee Hall follows its own path. The Hall is an umbrella institution that provides physical space, and has on occasion been able to provide funds and technical support to programs that took up initial residence within its walls. Each of the seven programs that together make up the subunits of Toynbee today works autonomously in fund raising, program design, and in making interorganizational contacts. What characterizes these programs is that each is run by an enthusiastic amateur. People came to Toynbee because they cared passionately about change, and their previous experiences either ended (as with LaVaillant's retirement from the army) or were so unsatisfactory that they quit. They turned to Toynbee Hall as a more effective vehicle for their energies. This amateur orientation is important for several reasons. First, people at Toynbee care about community and the staff people tend to view their work as that of community organizing. Community organizing has a somewhat idiosyncratic meaning at Toynbee Hall. It does not refer to the sort of political mobilization Americans are familiar with, thanks to the teachings of activist Saul Alinsky. (10) When we first came to East London, we hypothesized that the odd conception of community organizing articulated by Toynbee Hall staff reflected differences in the civic culture between the United States and England, a difference articulated in the famous social science work by Almond and Verba. (11) The centralization of the state, the importance of party as a sponsor of local social services, and the routinization of the welfare state in England make the American habit of turning voluntary associations into political interest groups seem pointless in the British context.

At least that is what we thought until we met some Rastafarian organizers in Brixton and talked to John Matthews, Director of BASSAC, about the Alinsky organizing movement that swept the local organizations that make up his federation in the late 1960s. That movement dramatically changed most British settlements, mandating new boards of directors that would be more representative of local constituencies and introducing direct, participatory democracy into organizational decision-making. Toynbee Hall, by staying clear of BASSAC and having an elitist tradition that shielded and removed it from the pressures of direct democracy, held onto its chaotic style of government, its elite board connections, and its idiosyncratic conception of community organizing.

Actually, as we have looked into the history of Toynbee Hall, we have learned that the model of community organizing we met was not so much idiosyncratic as Victorian. The relationship to community explained to us by the director of the Stepney Children's Fund is not very different from the philosophy of community-building that led Canon Barnett to set up Toynbee Hall in the first place. Though ideas of societal reform among the elite might at the objective, rational, conceptual level operate in terms of macro-structural and systemic categories and concepts, in Barnett's vision these ideas would stem from and be informed by the intimate experiences and personal, subjective, empathetic understandings garnered by individual residents of Toynbee in their day-to-day encounters with the poor. (12) According to Bob LaVaillant, government sponsored social services in the East End are unsatisfactory because they are segmented and professionalized. That is, the different social service institutions are separate from each other, so that the personal problems of clients are not addressed as multi-faceted and interpenetrating problems of living in a slum with no job, little access to health care, drastic psychological problems, and a family composed of people inclined to victimize each other. Professionals in the schools, thus, have little contact with law enforcement officials; health care providers are located in their own separate building as are the housing authorities. None of them can work together easily on a case to provide a coordinated solutions to client problems. That is precisely what LaVaillant does, however, by getting to know individual children and tracking them through all of their institutional contacts. He is able to engage in this holistic approach because he first gets to know the children and acquire their personal trust through Toynbee Hall's programs. They visit him there, bring him their problems, and together they work to solve them. He offers an integrated approach to case work, and although his style is informal his work has been accepted and legitimated by the more formal and professionalized agencies in the East End. To gain this interinstitutional linkage and legitimation he has assumed a variety of formal roles. He is a local Magistrate and head of the Boy Scout troup (LaVaillant reports that his grandfather *founded* the Boy Scouts) as well as a program director at Toynbee Hall. He often is contacted by school officials or the police who encounter a particularly difficult and complicated case because he is the only case-worker around who will deal with the whole client. LaVaillant engages in his brand of community organizing, or institutional networking, partly by providing background linkages that better funded, more professionally dominated organizations cannot (or will not) provide themselves. The loose structure of Toynbee Hall and the somewhat outmoded, generalized activity of the umbrella organization, as contrasted to the narrower focus of services that the Stepney Children's Fund provides, is useful for his work. Toynbee taken as a whole generally does not threaten other local providers because it does not compete, either for money or for philosophical dominance. It is effective precisely because it seems irrelevant. It has its fingers in many things and it helps to integrate other services, but it is not goal focused or market-oriented. Consistent with Toynbee Hall's purpose in its early years, the point of organizing is to foster cooperation and to get others to do the necessary work of community improvement. The Toynbee organizer should be an educator, a facilitator, and a moral guide, not a professionally dominant service provider.

Community, Authority, and Hierarchy

Another way LaVaillant is an organizer in the mold of Canon Barnett is that he seeks to be a personal and moral leader. Barnett talked about three guiding values -- community, authority, and hierarchy. Community emphasized the integration of roles and social classes -- the opposite of segregation and class division. Authority has a meaning similar to that proposed by Max Weber -- leadership earned from subordinates' belief in the leader's expertise or sophisticated knowledge. (13) Early Toynbee residents were Oxford scholars from Balliol College and they guided the community to the extent they were respected by local residents because they were concerned, knowledgeable, and involved. Hierarchy did not refer to a stratified social structure but rather had to do with a hierarchy of values. Living with the poor in the East End, leading an ascetic life, using one's knowledge to teach and help others, and "seeing the man in the fool" -- trying to help even the supposedly unworthy -- all meant following higher values in one's life. The ethos of Balliol College in the 1880s emphasized the virtue of living a life of such higher values, and that ethos underlaid the creation of Toynbee Hall.(14)

One does not hear this high-flown rhetoric reverberating from the rafters at Toynbee Hall today. It is, however, very much a part of the way project directors define the specifics of their day-to-day work. Leaders are in the East End to be with the people, to befriend them, to help them work on personal and community problems, and through this work to help them and those around them escape poverty and exploitation. Helping is personal. It is both personalized contact and a highly personalized mission. This approach to social reform seems impractically small in scale, elitist in conception, and old fashioned, rooted as it is in sentiment and tradition rather than in systemic thinking and rationality. It harks back to the critique leveled at Toynbee in 1900 that led Barnett to invite Beveridge, Tawney, and their friends to formulate a new ethos.

Although upon our arrival we too thought many Toynbee programs were rooted in a "wrong analysis," we found the work of Stepney Children's fund or of the Cedar Centre (a program started at Toynbee Hall as its "Family Program" but not formally affiliated with it any longer) oddly powerful. One student interviewed children six months after they had returned from their summer holiday and was stunned to see how the children lit up as they remembered their summer experience. The contrast with their present living experience was striking to this student, and she came away convinced that whatever happened on that summer holiday really had a chance to change those children's lives. Another student, working in a community center, could not figure out what the primary goal or defining activity was. Young people just seemed to hang around, joking with each other and community people who would drop in. There seemed no purpose or focus. Only after being there for several months did this student realize how much the center was like an expandable family that could include and envelope people from the very diverse community the center served. While we are loath to saddle Toynbee Hall staff with the Victorian high church values set forth by Canon Barnett, the three traditional principles of community, authority, and hierarchy upon which Toynbee Hall was founded seem to be very much in evidence in current activities. They pretty well sum up what goes on.


In our descriptions and observations we do not want to imply that we necessarily champion the ideology that prevails at Toynbee Hall or the programs run there. It is striking, however, that the programs and beliefs one encounters there in the late Twentieth Century are so close in content and spirit to what one would have encountered at the close of the Nineteenth Century. This is not just a curiosity. It also helps to explain why, as an organization, Toynbee Hall is in a chaotic state.

Managerial Failure

The last decade has been a tumultuous one for the settlement house, and nearly everyone we interviewed -- staff, council members, and outside observers alike -- agreed that no one is satisfied, no one quite knows what is going on, and no one agrees about what the program and mission of the famous social agency is or ought to be. This sense of confusion has gained the sense of an urgent crisis because Toynbee Hall has recently faced a severe financial crisis, serious enough that the Charity Commission has stepped in and ordered fiscal restructuring and reorganization of the Toynbee Hall board. (15) The fiscal changes are going on. Board changes are proposed that would make the board more representative, but they have not happened yet, and, thanks to foot-dragging by council members, may not happen at all. Toynbee seems to be adrift and recalcitrant. It is hard to figure out why it has the programs it offers or what is the overall purpose or mission of its activities. The warden is a weak office, since in recent years he has allowed program directors to run their own shops with little supervision or interference, but also without providing much in the way of resources or technical support. Although billed as a "university settlement", no universities in the U.K. have much to do with the organization today, and the few students who do spend time there, the Warden complained to us, do not seem to have much interest in its overall program or ethos. At best they work intensely in one program; at worst they put in time at Toynbee Hall and then use it as a dormitory for gaining access to near-by attractions in central London. The student resident program has been closed down, and these rooms have been let to elderly people who use the dormitory as a rooming house.

Council members do not, for the most part, play an active role in the life of Toynbee. Two or three officers make most of the key decisions. Most of the twenty-one members are unknown to people who work at the Hall, and part of the current crisis is due to the council's ineffectiveness (or unwillingness) as a fundraising group. Many of the members were appointed ten or fifteen years ago when they were senior representatives of government, the aristocracy, or local interest groups. Advanced in age, some of these early appointments are effectively retired.

Other, more recently appointed and active, council members reported to us confusion and frustration when talking about their involvement. They are confused about the mission or purpose of the organization; they are embarrassed and angry at its chaotic fiscal and program management; they value its history and traditions but are frustrated that historical commitments do not find effective representation in the leadership or activities of the staff. At the same time, the board is reluctant to step aside and to allow Toynbee Hall to become modern.


The organization may have no choice but to become more conventional and more like the social services conglomerates other settlement houses are becoming -- purveyors of contracted services under the new "priv{i}tisation" regime. With pressure from the Charity Commission for the board to become more "representative" (one staff member wondered what that might mean, given Toynbee's history and location), Toynbee might be forced to give up its historically strong ties to the aristocratic and political elite. It has been attacked as an elitist organization. Perhaps it is time for Toynbee to become "politically correct." Toynbee's programs also might become more "rational."

One source of pressure for this rationalization is that human services programs in Britain are becoming more rule-bound. Historically, programs were funded by "core funding" what Americans would call "block grants". Large grants were given by central government offices, mostly the Home Office, to representative units at lower levels of social aggregation -- local government units like the Borough of Tower Hamlets or special function associations like BASSAC -- nd these units would subdivide the money in consultations with higher ups and through negotiations with their own constituent units. Privatisation has changed this not only by altering fiscal relationships but also by centrally defining the function and regulations that should rule specific programs. Thus, even if one does not receive government funding, one may still be limited and constrained by the governmental regulations that apply to all programs for children or housing or education. A staff member suggested that Toynbee Hall may as well take the government money it has avoided for all of these years since it is being restricted anyway by such regulations. Toynbee Hall would be tied down and forced to give up its diffuse and ill-defined integrative role, but salaries might get paid and the roof leaks repaired.

Fatal Reforms

Members of the Toynbee community seem to agree that the Hall could repair its organizational troubles by implementing a few administrative reforms of a kind that are familiar, standard operating procedures for experienced managers (some of whom are represented on the council). Year after year, these changes do not happen, however, and they do not because to implement them would destroy Toynbee as a distinctive organization. Reformers could turn the Hall into an efficient social machine by copying any number of other professionally dominated social service providers. But what is the point? There are any number of social service organizations already existing in East London. Does Whitechapel really need another? The programs Toynbee *could* offer will certainly be offered by some other unit. Meanwhile, if Toynbee is made instrumentally and formally rational, there seems no doubt that it will stop being whatever it is that has made this hoary social dinosaur such an important force in social services and social reform in British and American society. Given the consternation being voiced in the nonprofits research community about the forces of "isomorphism" (16) -- pressures to copy other organizations that snuff out innovation and quiet activist social movements -- is it always desirable or rational to force an organization with a distinctive traditional character to "isomorphize?"

Our research suggests there is a lot to be lost because, as near as we can tell, the chaos we see at Toynbee today is not very different than the chaos that led Canon Barnett to hire William Beveridge as a subwarden at Toynbee in 1903.(17) Nor was the chaos absent in 1912 when Barnett's widow helped force the second Warden to resign or in 1914, convening a committee of prominent former residents in an effort to define (for the third time) the mission of Toynbee Hall. Despite the fame of the Hall and the social contributions of former residents, this success has never translated into strong fiscal support for the core organization, to great loyalty to the buildings and staff from alumnae, or to ongoing involvement from those who became famous and powerful after incubating at Toynbee Hall. Unlike the prodigal's son, they have not to returned to be feted at their childhood home. The same lack of commitment to the institution arises because Toynbee Hall's ethos has, from the beginning, been outwardly oriented. The point of the institution has been to foster social innovation, research, and experimentation in the surrounding community and the larger society. This means that its most successful projects, rather than leading to organizational growth and institutionalization, have been pushed outside of the organization. Similarly, its most famous residents have left and turned their attention to bigger and more important projects, as Meachem (18) demonstrates in his descriptions of Beveridge and Tawney. After World War II the expansion of the system of voluntary organizations in England meant that a number of Toynbee Hall programs were fated to become national models and social service franchise systems with many local units. These programs all broke away from the nest and became independent. Toynbee does not collect royalties on its inventions even though they are well-known and powerful.

This commitment to avoid institutionalization is not just a peculiarity of Toynbee Hall. According to Paul H. Stuart (19) it is one of the central premises of the settlement house movement in general -- the original organizational model Toynbee Hall "spun off". The point is that settlements are instruments of social innovation, not routine service providers. They are driven by ideological commitment to orderly social change, to community service, and to linking national issues to local settings. For this, it is important that settlements have an amateur or activist quality to them. Although they played a key role in the development of professional social work, those organizations that have retained the settlement ethos are not social work organizations in the sense that it is taught in social work schools. That, perhaps, is why Toynbee is treated by the university professionals in England who teach about social services and reform as though it is a bit "dirty".


We have described anti-institutionalism and amateurism as though they are virtues. However, from an administrative standpoint -- that is, from the standpoint of someone trying to be effective as Warden or executive director -- these values are disruptive and cause problems for two reasons. First, amateurism works against the build-up of organizational intelligence. Hard won lessons from one generation are forgotten in the next so that it is hard to set up and maintain effective adminstrative procedures. Second, anti-institutionalism means that within the politics of the organization, the office of the executive is congenitally weak. It consequently is difficult to define and direct policies intended to strengthen the organization as a whole.


Amateurs are valuable in voluntary organizations because they bring enthusiasm, idealistic zeal, fresh ideas, and often a desire to include other amateurs in their work. They are a source of innovation and they work against the hum-drum routines that managers and bookkeepers try to impose. On the other hand, amateurs usually are inexperienced, so that they must rediscover facts of organizational life that experienced or trained people have learned through hard experience. (20) Organizations are coalitions founded on certain agreements about what should be done, who should be in charge, and how the labor should be divided. They become efficient as these understandings become implicit and automatic. Amateurs resist these established routines, preferring to make their own decisions and to be involved in deciding what should be done. They are hard to direct and, unless they are effectively brought into the coalition headed by the executive, they are likely to be critical of the boss. Toynbee Hall tends to be full of chiefs and to lack Indians.


Anti-institutionalism creates problems because it means programs are temporary. We have seen why the logic of transience makes sense. But if programs exist only to move towards their own independence, the overall program at Toynbee Hall will tend to lack coherence and logic. Programs exist to be examples of innovation and to achieve enough strength to break free. Program directors, in turn, are encouraged to treat their programs as autonomous entities whose goals may in real ways work at cross-purposes to collective needs shared by all components of the Hall. We found confusion among Toynbee workers about whether programs were part of Toynbee or whether they were independent outfits, camping at Toynbee, benefiting from its physical space and reputation, but otherwise distancing themselves from the collective. In this chaotic structural situation, the role of director is hard to maintain because although that person is responsible for the coherence and the welfare of the organization as a whole, she or he has little power to marshal internal resources to support organizational maintenance. Historically, this weakness has been overcome most effectively by employing a charismatic person with a large following in the broader community and preferably with personal wealth. Such a person then embodies the organization in his person, justifying its existence and attracting resources by virtue of his personal influence. With such a leader, Toynbee Hall is able to avoid the sort of exchange relationship with its environment upon which production-oriented organizations depend. The warden can be a leader of the organization, shaping its general philosophy and selecting the programs that ought to be encouraged and included without being much involved in the actual administration of services.

It has been hard for Toynbee Hall to attract wardens with this combination -- enough notoriety in the outside world to attract interest and resources to Toynbee Hall and enough personal force, charisma, and organizing energy to pull the internal organization together. Without a strong organizational vision Toynbee Hall over the years has, unfortunately, tended to be dragged down by a fundamental contradiction in its organizational plan. By its nature, Toynbee Hall is an elitist organization. It is an organization that uses both traditional and new experimental programs and services within a particular impoverished community to explore and launch generalized policies for social reform. But this incubating function means Toynbee Hall's appropriate relationship to the surrounding community is ambivalent, hard to visualize, and easy for local critics to attack. Toynbee Hall is an encampment of rich folks in the midst of hunger and deprivation. One sees old pictures of poor children peeking in the windows to watch banquets of wealthy Oxford alumnae in the great hall. This is the image Toynbee Hall has for the local neighborhood. It is seen to be a wealthy organization, essentially separate from the local scene, in which do-gooders preach to the elites in the City of London or Westminster about the nature of poverty. Program directors told us that this local image makes it very hard to run grass-roots, community-based programs that are in close association with Toynbee Hall's physical building, and it also behooves them to downplay their association with the Hall. That is one reason why the Cedar Centre, one of our student internship sites, moved out of the building on Commercial Street to the Isle of Dogs, cutting its ties to the parent organization.

Toynbee Hall's Existential Dilemma.

The contradiction between community service and national policy was present at the Hall's founding, expressed as a conflict between the Christian charity philosophy of the Charity Organization Society and the Fabian socialists, of whom Beatrice Webb was the most important member in the Toynbee social circle.(21) At the beginning distinctions between Christian mission work and social reform were not sharply drawn. Recent college graduates could see service work in the slum both as an extension of their Christian responsibilities and as preparation for their later work as leaders of society and government. Within fifteen years of the founding, however, both the Christian missionaries and the social reformers became more committed to their work and disenchanted with the other tradition.

As deeply religious individuals worked to proselytize among slum residents, social reformers lost confidence in individual social reform, turning instead to socialism. Neither the Christians nor the socialists had much patience with Toynbee and during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century the organization faced almost constant crisis about defining a new mission, more appropriate to the socialist vision. The mission never was successfully recast, perhaps because Toynbee by its nature was tied to a neighborhood and because of that could never produce changes that fit the societal reform model advanced by its critics.

This tension is reflected in the constitutional crisis Toynbee Hall faces today since there is pressure for Toynbee Hall to become more like other local community organizations. Toynbee Hall is supposed to restructure its council to include more representative community members, and its programs are under pressure to follow regulations and accept statutory funding so that they fit more comfortably into the comprehensive social services program of the local governmental unit of Tower Hamlets.

The council resists these pressures. We hear instead a desire for Toynbee Hall to incorporate a "research function" into its work and strengthen its ties to universities. This is a problem because English universities are not much interested in the place, and bringing in Americans or other foreigners is not likely to help Toynbee further its tradition of influencing *domestic* social policy. More to the point, when Toynbee leaders say they want to foster research as part of their mission they have something in mind other than the kind of work that results in scholarly publications. Toynbee would prefer to compete with the Policy Studies Institute, a research organization that focuses on domestic policy problems and informs legislation and government administration practices. This is not likely to happen because contemporary approaches to research and social policy formation do not mesh with Toynbee's organizational mission. Its effort to join community service and involvement in the locality with national policy formation maps onto a specific ideological perspective that has not recently been popular in England. The approach also is not resonant with the political battles between welfare state socialists on the left and free-market enthusiasts on the right that recently have defined what social policy means. Toynbee does not fail because it is inept. It fails because it stands for something, and what it stands for does not allow it to be integrated with the university world or influential in political universe where analysis and policy making are understood to circle around big government and centralized decision-making. Things may change in the future because big government is on the way out and small nonprofit organizations of the sort Toynbee has nurtured increasingly are responsible for providing social services and launching social innovations. Unfortunately, Toynbee may not benefit from this sea-change in social policy because of its commitment to amateur elitism. Toynbee continues to be a place where well-intentioned, competent middle class and wealthy people can do things for the poor. New nonprofits tend to be professionalized organizations that systematically serve and represent particular political interest groups.

Toynbee Hall's autonomous-elite role is hard to maintain. Its internal programs are disorganized because it has a weak connection to the local community -- mostly composed of Bengalis who are not much more interested in Toynbee's Victorian Christian ethos than were the Jewish settlers of Whitechapel a century ago. Those programs no longer seem likely to reflect the cutting edge of social reform. New social agencies today arise either when new constituent groups are represented in an organization (feminist organizations dealing with battered wives, homosexual organizations concerned with AIDS, and advocacy organizations representing oppressed ethnic groups are examples) or when people who are well-connected in higher policy circles and experienced in "grantsmanship" take over or start an organization -- as Dennis Young has suggested (22), this is the functional equivalent of starting a small business. Neither of these are consonant with Toynbee's amateur-elitist innovation style.


Toynbee Hall is an example of what Meyer and Zucker call "permanently failing organizations." (23) The idea that some organizations might be permanently failing is ironic since most of our theories about organizations make expectations about competitive selection and adaptation to environmental demands central to explaining change and improvements in efficiency. If organizations fail to meet clients' needs or frustrate the demands and expectations of funders or ineptly botch basic tasks of management and accountability, we expect (and perhaps hope) that some crisis will mercifully sweep them out of existence. The nonprofit sector is dotted, however, with organizations that persist even though there seems to be little demand for what they do, few opportunities for them to raise new operating resources, and considerable dissatisfaction with their bookkeeping procedures or administrative practices among important constituencies. Toynbee Hall suggests one reason a failing organization might persist. It is a cultural icon. It has a sufficiently famous reputation in the United Kingdom and in America that funds can be raised on its name alone. (24) Its heritage in social welfare and in government-sponsored social services is so important that Toynbee also attracts a steady flow of interested and concerned visitors, like ourselves, who offer moral encouragement and make in kind contributions to the organization's survival. By virtue of their long history, organizations may also own resources that have considerable value. In Toynbee's case, its buildings are a valuable real estate asset since its East End neighborhood abuts the City of London where land is scarce. Toynbee can solve some of its financial problems by selling off portions of its property. (25)

This paper asserts that there is more to Toynbee's survival than nostalgia, however. It appears to be failing because the tools we generally use to analyze organizations draw on short spans of time. We pay attention to annual reports, balance sheets, production measures in specific programs, conflicts between members of the board, staff, community, and funding or regulatory entities. We tend to measure performance against policy criteria that are products of the politics of a particular era or of cultural fads that dominate a decade or two. Toynbee is not successful in terms of these short term measures. Observers tend to interpret this poor showing as evidence that there is an insufficient flow of resources to provide for basic and necessary organizational maintenance. Critics are restless that the people in charge of Toynbee are so conservative, or so driven by the opaque fascinations of aristocracy, that they do not implement elementary procedures of administrative and political good sense, as we see in Vinten's impatient dissection of Toynbee's finances. Yet in the analysis presented here, we have been brought up short by three observations.

First, the historical account tells us that Toynbee has never been much different administratively than it is today. The programs it runs in the 1990s are similar to ones it offered in the first decade of the twentieth century. Also, its present fiscal crisis is probably less severe than difficulties it faced earlier in its history-after some of its buildings were bombed in World War II or at the end of the 1950s when it launched a fund-raising campaign. Toynbee's great record of social innovation and its function as an incubator of young, innovative social reformers was achieved in the face of -- and sometimes in response to -- organizational troubles.

Second, we have seen that Toynbee resistance to short-term pressures for change has allowed it to weather crises that threaten the existence of other, similar organizations. Other settlements that are part of the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres (BASSAC) changed their governance structures in the 1960s and 1970s to make boards more representative of local neighborhoods, to make staff and governance procedures more internally democratic, and to eliminate vestiges of elitism. These changes were the result of confrontational community politics, political fads, and incentives provided by grant agencies, including BASSAC itself. Gradually, however, the energy drained out of the community movements and government policies have changed so that many of these organizations find themselves neither with reliable sources of government support nor with a strong constituency or a clear sense of direction. (26) Third, we have recognized that administrative weakness, embodied in the weakness of the warden's office, allows other parts of the organization to prosper in ways that are compelling.

First, the weak executive allows member programs to function within Toynbee without much interference. This is important because Toynbee manages to attract talented program directors. A director who tried to impose conformity on the programs would probably fail and also would interfere with the climate of innovation that historically has prevailed.

Second, Toynbee is a beneficiary of its history and of its reputation. It can attract talented staff because people want to be associated with the famous organization. Toynbee also serves an attractive district. Not only is the East End one of the poorest districts in the United Kingdom, it also is a short walk from Liverpool Station and the Tower of London. Passionate reformers not only find a ready target for their work, but they also can enjoy and benefit from being strategically located in a great city. This includes making it easy for members of the elite to stop by to see the organization at work or to participate in its programs.

Third, Toynbee has a long-standing tradition of endorsing and supporting unpopular causes and unconventional projects. It was one of the earliest sponsors of the labor movement in London and it also was one of the few settings that welcomed meetings of homosexuals during the 1930s and 1940s. It also provided a home to social enterprises that later went on to become "industry standards." Staff members resist control by the executive partly because they view themselves as enmeshed in a moral battle of one sort or another. The organization as a whole is reluctant to accept reforms imposed from outside because it has valuable traditions of its own to protect.

Fourth, Toynbee is both easy to approach and somewhat cloistered. It is easy to approach in the sense that volunteers who want to help are welcomed and community people willing to ask for assistance tend to be encouraged to stop by informally to meet with staff. This means the organizations includes a large number of people who do not know very much about its history, what it does, or why the organization is valuable. At the same time, the Council is comprised of wealthy, powerful, and famous people who are difficult to access. The organization also sponsors invitation-only events that include social, business, and cultural leaders and exclude local residents. This combination of openness and exclusion confers a certain mystery on Toynbee. While it is easy to feel part of the organization, one also has the sense that heart of the organization and its fundamental traditions are closely guarded and not available to the general public.


Toynbee works because it creates a public space in which there is great commitment to serving the downtrodden and allowing free expression of unpopular ideas. It does this partly because it has a loose organizational structure that provides a home for many diverse programs even as it can provide little in the way of basic support resources. More importantly, these things happen because the organization has a tradition of support for ideals of Victorian social reform. (27) The tradition is enduring because it has been translated into a characteristic organizational style that fosters amateur social reform and that has great staying power.

It depends on having staff members who are creative amateurs -- energetic people with a cause willing to work for little money but enthusiastic about building their personal project into a social movement. That Toynbee is an anachronism is, to some extent, essential for protecting these staff members. If programs were measured against professional standards of performance or if they were designed and legitimated by their resonance with the political group that dominated parliament, unpopular projects and groups probably would have trouble functioning. Further, if Toynbee were a wealthy organization its leaders would probably would be forced to make choices about its philanthropic objectives and program that would reduce the creativity and independence of constituent programs.

This collection of attributes constitutes the organizational culture of Toynbee. People speak loosely about organizational culture, treating it simply as the set of standard operating procedures that evolve within an organization and that makes it hard to anticipate the outcomes of rationally planned actions. (28) Toynbee's organizational culture is more than a set of procedures created by street-level bureaucrats as they go about their way. It is a tradition that has specific historical roots and that has particular consequences for the way that the organization functions. The culture resists change (29) and practicality, and this is an important reason that Toynbee is "permanently failing." It fails because the culture prevents today's program managers from doing practical things that would make it easier for their programs to survive. Toynbee also appears to fail because some of the things that are most important in its traditions are likely to be negatively valued in the social, political, and cultural environment of any given era. But just as it fails in the view of one epoch, Toynbee may appear a great success in the next. Not all organizations can count among their stock of resources the sort of organizational culture possessed by Toynbee. What makes most of the great nonprofit institutions great, however, is precisely that they have a distinctive and powerful organizational culture that gives them great influence in society and also that contains within it a distinctive organizational genius that makes that organization's way of doing things an enduring way. One of the main challenges for nonprofit boards of directors is todevelop an understanding of and an appreciation for this distinctiveorganizational culture. Often the primacy of that culture has to beadvanced against the desires and plans of the organization's staff,concerned as it is with managing the day-to-day details of programsurvival. It is often difficult for board members to define and makethe case for the ethos of its organization. This is partly because notall board members have the opportunity to learn about the history andthe achievements of the organization before they are asked to makecritical decisions. An appreciation of the ethos of an organizationalso implies an ability to interpret organizational events and diagnosethe way that particular events relate to long term patterns or repeatpast struggles. Protecting organizational culture also requires the sort of leadership described by Selznick as the definition of an organizational myth andthe articulation of organizational mission. (30) These tasks require vision, imagination, and the capacity to find metaphors thatparticipants, engaged as they are in diverse specific activities, willrecognize as resonant with their commitments at work. The board of anorganization with a powerful culture has a responsibility to discoverthe essential character of the organization and to protect thatcharacter against practical demands that would cause irreversiblechange. That is why the council at Toynbee has so resisted change inthe constitution of the bo.ard Toynbee.


(1) Earlier versions of this paper were presented at meetings of the Voluntary Action History Society, London, January, 1993, and at the Center on Philanthropy, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in April, 1994. Comments from the audiences of those two presentations have advanced our thinking greatly. This paper was made possible by the willingness of Toynbee Hall to accept internship students from Bucknell University. Two of those students contributed a substantial amount of research to the work reported here and advised us in the writing of the paper and we are grateful to them. They are Nancy Morrison and Katrina Cook. Any errors or misstatements in the text are the responsibility of the authors.

(2) Meyer and Zucker (1989).

(3) Abel (1979); Addams (1910); Reinders (1982); Stuart (n.d.; 1992); Trolander (1975).

(4) Harkavy and Puckett (1993).

(5) Vinten (1992) provides a sensible summary of these criteria from the standpoint of the accounting profession which uses Toynbee Hall as a negative example, showing how its organizational practices violate the principles of modern nonprofits accounting theory.

(6) "People's organization" is a term we take from the usage of American community organizer, Saul Alinsky (1969).

(7) THE INDEPENDENT (London) (1993)

(8) Briggs and McCartney (1984); Meacham (1987).

(9) Hunter (1993).

(10) Reitzes and Reitzes (1988) provide a useful review of social science writings about Alinsky as well as references to some of Alinsky's writings.

(11) Almond and Verba (1963).

(12) The most useful history of Toynbee for our work was Meacham (1987), although we also used internal documents from Toynbee and various other works that will be cited elsewhere in this paper.

(13) Weber (1947).

(14) Meacham (1987).

(15) Vinten (1992).

(16) McCarthy, Britt, and Wolfson (1991) voice this concern with special urgency.

(17) Meacham (1987), pp.136-139.

(18) Meacham (1987).

(19) Stuart (n.d.; 1992).

(20) Milofsky and Elworth (1985) discuss this problem with reference to health charities in the United States.

(21) Briggs and McCartney (1984), p 36

(22) Young (1983).

(23) Meyer and Zucker (1989)

(24) See, for example, Leat 1975a, b; 1986; Trolander 1975; Abel 1979; and Reinders 1982.

(25) Famous, failing organizations sell valuable assets reluctantly since doing so slices off a bit of the organization's heritage, that quality that gives it value and meaning. We see this with the death watch that has been mounted at the New York Historical society with its valuable and important collection but insufficient funds to keep the building open for public visitors (Du Bois 1994; Grimes, 1994; Goldberger 1994; Kimmelman 1995).

(26) This material comes from an interview with John Matthews, Executive Director of the British Association of Social Action Centres (BASSAC), November ___, 1990.

(27) Shils (1981).

(28) This is one argument that has been used to advance the neo-institutionalist perspective on organizations (DiMaggio 1988; DiMaggio and Powell 1990; Lipsky 1980; March and Olsen 1979). The insight about the disruptive power of standard operating procedures is useful, but it is important to distinguish these freely evolving organizational qualities with the sort of definite, tradition-rooted organizational culture we see at Toynbee.

(29) This sense of organizational culture borrows heavily from Sarason's (1982) notion developed in THE CULTURE OF THE SCHOOL AND THE PROBLEM OF CHANGE. (30) Selznick (1957).


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