First Advisor

Susan B. Poulsen

Term of Graduation

Spring 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Communication in organizations, Organizational effectiveness -- Evaluation, Nonprofit organizations -- Management -- Evaluation, Power (Social Sciences)



Physical Description

1 online resource, (128p.)


Professional organizational consultants and researchers performing organizational communication assessments with non-profit boards of directors have few tools available to them and many of these tools under emphasize the centrality of communication and overlook the power-asdomination (Mumby, 1994) issues present in organizations. This study tested the ethnography of communication (Hymes, 1972) as an organizational communication assessment tool with a board of directors of a non-profit organization in Oregon and examined the results by employing Mumby's (1994) construct, thereby conducting a critical ethnography of communication.

This study offers important insights into boards of directors of nonprofit organizations and has important implications for communication consultants seeking tools to perform organizational communication assessments or who are interested in examining organizational power issues.

Interview data and other artifacts collected for an initial assessment of a non-profits' board of directors were used to conduct this additional analysis to answer; can the ethnography of communication be effectively used as a communication assessment tool for communication consultants to analyze and assess the communication practices and patterns of a nonprofit organization's board of directors?, and what will I learn about power as constituted and communicated by this non-profit organization's board of directors?

Using the ethnography of communication, "the camp" emerged as the heart and soul of this board. The camp's beauty and amenities enchanted this board; and it was the focus of its financial discussions, its hope for "saving" the organization and offered its board of directors one of its greatest challenges. This important finding brought into focus and helped this researcher understand the behaviors, values and beliefs which motivated and nearly destroyed this group.

In the critical analysis, Mumby's (1994) three conditions of power were present in the data. It was shown how these conditions caused severe conflicts among the board members and how they were compelled to focus on these conflicts rather than examine the major cause of their difficulties; a faulty but traditional board structure.

This study adds to the growing body of ethnographies of communication and the findings illustrated the usefulness and importance of conducting applied communication research in organizational studies.


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