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Governance From The Ground Up: Rediscovering Mary Parker Follett

PAM, Vol. 15 No. 1, (2010)

Democracy is often touted as the normative dimension of public administration. However, what “governance from the ground up” is and how it actually works have been relatively neglected by the field. This research utilizes a phenomenological line of inquiry that explores whether Mary Parker Follett’s community process theory (1918/1923) has any salience in actual collaborative experiences at the neighborhood level. Using an approach of “practice illuminating theory” (Hummel, 1998), this study explores how concrete collaborative practices may contribute to theories of deliberative democracy. The research shows that Follett’s community process—far from being an abstraction or utopian—accurately describes an everyday practice in neighborhood group dynamics, and furthermore makes sense of the political community or polis that the ancient Greeks praised as genuine democratic governance.

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