Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The field of organizational ecology has been reduced to studies of population dynamics. Ecology, however, is a much broader field, that includes relational, spatial, and temporal dimensions. It allows us to combine existing theories of organizations to study their distribution across space. I combine insights from the new institutionalism, population ecology, and resource-dependence theory, to investigate the factors that influence the location of NGO activities in the state of San Luis Potosí­, Mexico. I conducted interviews and participant observation in 51 rural NGOs. The uneven distribution of NGOs in the state is not the result of their strategy to reach the people who need them most, but a consequence of the different opportunities and constraints that they encounter in each part of the state. San Luis Potosí is composed of four administrative regions with contrasting natural, social, economic, and political characteristics. The population of NGOs in each region also exhibits different characteristics, depending on the regional potential for social conflict, the economic opportunities available to the residents, and the openness of the political system. In the Altiplano, few NGOs exist. Their pragmatic orientation meets the approval of state organizations. On the contrary, the Huasteca, a tropical region with a long history of political repression and socio-economic inequality, forms a niche where many NGOs are active. Because they are more involved in public policy debates, state agencies mistrust them. They are actually undergoing a process of differentiation, according to their political involvement. As the use of the ecological model points out, spatial factors play an important role in the life of organizations. Rural NGOs in San Luis Potosí­ adapt to the different social opportunities and constraints they encounter in different places. Space, however, is not a given, permanent characteristic. It is socially created by actors who occupy it. NGOs are influenced by the context they encounter at first, which is usually defined by the state, but their actions also serve to refine the existing definitions. To include space in social investigation, we have to pay attention to how it is constructed.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Wesley M. Shrum, Jr.



Included in

Sociology Commons