BAILLIE, SUSAN JEAN; PHD

                         SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, 1979

                         GEOGRAPHY (0366)

                         The purpose of this research was to examine the role of sponsorship in the diffusion of an innovative
                         social program, community education. Recent social science literature suggests the importance of
                         understanding the spread of innovations over time and space (diffusion) as an important perspective on
                         social change. It is argued here that social change through the adoption of innovations does not occur
                         'naturally' but rather it is often directly or indirectly influenced by powerful organizations and institutions.
                         Whereas previous research has emphasized discovering the correlates of 'innovativeness', this study
                         emphasizes how innovations are initiated and supplied to potential adopters by sponsoring
                         organizations and what effect these organizations have on why potential adopters adopt or reject an
                         innovation. It is argued that the sponsorship of an innovation is of critical significance in enabling
                         adoption and stimulating diffusion. In order to examine the relative influence of the sponsor in the
                         innovation process, the study was designed to address the following research questions: (1) What is the
                         relationship between sponsorship and the adoption of a social innovation (community education) that
                         has two sponsors, one private (the C.S. Mott Foundation) and one public (the U.S. Office of Education)
                         examined from the viewpoint of the potential adopter? (2) What is the relationship between sponsorship
                         and the time of adoption of a social innovation from the perspective of the adopter? (3) What is the
                         relationship between sponsorship and the degree of adoption of the innovation (the number of
                         components adopted) from the perspective of the adopter? (4) What are the activities involved in the
                         sponsorship of an innovation from the viewpoint of the sponsor. A mail survey was administered to
                         Superintendents in all adopting school districts and to a stratified sample of Superintendents in
                         non-adopting school districts in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Three case studies of adopting
                         school districts were conducted to examine in more detail the sponsors' impact on the adoption of
                         community education in relation to other factors. Interviews were conducted with personnel at each site
                         and relevant documents were reviewed. Thirty interviews were conducted with sponsor personnel
                         directly or indirectly involved in the diffusion of community education in New York, Ohio and
                         Pennsylvania. These included officials of the Mott Foundation, USOE and organizations supported by
                         the two sponsors. In order to estimate the impact of the sponsor on adoption and non-adoption, sponsor
                         influence was considered in relation to other factors deemed influential. These included information flow,
                         organizational structure, political culture and need. Results of a discriminant analysis between adopters
                         and non-adopters indicated that sponsorship, information flow and organizational structure all play
                         relatively important roles in discriminating between adopters and non-adopters. That sponsorship is an
                         influential discriminating factor suggests that previous research has failed to recognize the complexity of
                         understanding why innovations are adopted and the role that the sponsor plays in the process. In
                         conjunction with the result of the discriminant analysis, correlation analysis indicated the more recent
                         significance of sponsorship in the diffusion of community education and the importance of sponsorship
                         throughout the diffusion period rather than as a mere stimulant of early adoption. Data from the interviews
                         with sponsors and sponsor-agents indicate that the sponsors see themselves as both making the
                         innovation available and creating demand for the innovation. They do not divorce these activities.
                         Furthermore, in making the innovation available they do not merely provide information on the innovation
                         but they also see part of their task as providing support services for potential and actual adopters which
                         they use as a selling point to potential adopters.

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