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Are All Consumer-Operated Programs Empowering Self-Help Agencies?


The literature on consumer-operated-service programs (CQSPs) distinguishes two organizational types based on their leadership styles: the self-help agency (SHA)-participant democracy and the board-staff-run COSP. This study considers whether the characteristics of these two organizational leadership styles are recognized by members and whether these characteristics are associated with membership degree of empowerment. Two-hundred and fifty new entrants to five COSP drop-in centers rated the programs' leadership style using the COPES System Maintenance Scale and assessed their own empowerment on four empowerment measures. ANOVA with Bonferroni post-hoc tests were used to evaluate differences between settings; MANCOVA to assess differences in member empowerment. COSP system maintenance differences distinguished the two organizational types (p < .000). SHA-participant democracy members scored significantly better than board-staff-run program members on three of the four empowerment measures. SHA-participant democracies, with a lower focus on system maintenance, and an emphasis on power sharing between staff and non-staff members, appeared to more effectively use organizational decision-making processes to empower their members.

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