Mediating Organizations, Private Government, and Civil Society. Disinvestment Through the Preservation of Wealth in Cleveland, Ohio (1950-1990)

Author: Mendel, Stuart C.
This study uses nonprofit community organizations in the Union Miles, University Circle and Midtown Corridor neighborhoods of Cleveland, Ohio to reflect “from the-bottom-up” community organizing practiced not simply by grassroots property owners, but by the leadership of resource-rich private institutions, and business owners in a major North American city. These organizations illustrate the “private government” of civil society and the promise and possibilities of private action affecting the public good that we have come to associate with the nonprofit sector. Through this study, we observe a process that assigns to nonprofits the nurturing of civil society by intertwining public and private players in decision-making, in allocating resources outside the bounds of government, as a continuum of actions of individuals or organizations, as the outcome of the aggregate of customs that comprise American culture and freedoms. Describing the nature of these organizations and their ceaseless role in helping Cleveland preserve its wealth and civil society offers us insights as we labor to educate our legislators into adopting ways to utilize nonprofits; reform the nonprofit sector to meet the needs of changing society; educate nonprofit leaders and managers; duplicate the system of checks and balances the private sector has with government and business in other countries in the aftermath of September 11, 2001


“Stuart Mendel’s pioneering study calls our attention to some of the neglected roles played by voluntary associations and nonprofit corporations in the United States. His emphasis on the question of “wealth preservation” is arresting in the context of civic and neighborhood associations that are often seen as campaigning for justice and equality. But the objective of “wealth preservation” places nonprofit neighborhood efforts squarely in the mainstream of nonprofit purposes as defined by federal law. A second virtue of Stuart Mendel’s work is its way of treating voluntary associations together with their associated nonprofit corporations … Stuart Mendel’s study describes voluntary associations and nonprofit corporations that worked together in three very different Cleveland neighborhoods, including neighborhoods that house elite cultural institutions, an exceptionally successful manufacturing-service business, and ordinary people of modest incomes. His work calls our attention to some remarkable efforts. It will, I am sure, encourage others to think in new ways about these efforts. In the past decade Cleveland has become well known for its effective use of “public-private partnerships.” As Stuart Mendel shows, Cleveland has also made remarkable use of many kinds of “private” partnerships as well.” – (from the Commendatory Foreword) Dr. David C. Hammack, Haydn Professor of History, Case Western Reserve University

“Stuart Mendel’s book integrates several strands of theory for understanding the American urban social economy and illustrates this synthesis with vivid, detailed case studies of three path breaking initiatives to rebuild the city of Cleveland in the second half of the twentieth century. Mendel’s contribution is to illuminate how, in the face of a failing market economy and conflicted and ineffectual local and state governmental arrangements, nonprofit organizations and other manifestations of civil society can emerge through mediating, mobilizing and coordinating structures to fill the void. Mendel’s case studies demonstrate the considerable scope and powers that these private structures can attain as governing bodies, the impressive results they can achieve, and also the tensions they inevitably engender as they navigate between decisive action on behalf of their core stakeholders and the necessity of accommodating a wider circle of affected parties. Theories of civil society and social capital, market and governmental failure, collective action and private governance, public/private partnership, and nonprofits as mediating institutions, are melded in Mendel’s rendition of the story of private government in Cleveland. As a result, Mendel gives us a new set of conceptual lenses with which to potentially view and understand the stories of urban deterioration and renewal, and possible solutions, in other cities like Cleveland.” – Dennis R. Young, Ph.D., MS. Stanford University, Professor of Nonprofit Management and Economics, Case Western Reserve University and President, National Center on Nonprofit Enterprise

Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Maps
List of Organizational Abbreviations
1. Disinvestment in Cleveland 1950 -1990
2. Organizing to Counter Disinvestment in Cleveland: Communities 1950 through 1970
3. Community Organizing in Cleveland after 1970
4.Wealth Preservation in Union Miles
5.Disinvestment and Wealth Preservation in the Midtown Corridor
6. Civil Society, Nonprofit Organizations and Private Government