The Sadder the Story, the Bigger the Check: Reciprocity as an Answer to Organizational Deficit Models

Kathryn Johnson Gindlesparger


This ethnographic study argues that reciprocity—the attempt to equalize the power dynamics that occur in working relationships—is a way to counteract the widely-used but rarely-critiqued deficit models that dominate the nonprofit landscape. If community work is not done with a near constant attention to power dynamics, programming that is intended to help clients actually replicates and rewards structures that take away agency from those being served in community programs. The practice of reciprocity offers this structure.

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.