Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Nickki P. Dawes

Second Advisor

Heidi Levitt

Third Advisor

Laurel Wainwright


The aims of the present study were to address gaps in the literature related to community organizing, motivation, and engagement. This was achieved by examining how specific characteristics of social action campaigns, which are activities central to community organizing work, impacted youth’s experiences of these activities. In addition, individual and contextual factors also were examined as a way to understand how these elements influenced youth’s experiences of these campaigns. Thus, this study had two main research questions: (1) what are the characteristics of social action campaigns that youth experience as helping them to become and remain motivated and engaged? (2) What individual and/or contextual factors impact how these campaigns are experienced by youth and how do these factors relate to their subsequent motivation and engagement in community organizing? In order to answer these questions, this study conducted a thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews from thirty-six youth participants of a community organizing program in Boston. The majority of youth participants self-identified as Black, African-American, or Afro-Caribbean. In addition, a majority of the youth came from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Results from the analysis highlighted three overarching task characteristics, which include seven sub-characteristics that were linked to facilitating youth’s motivation and engagement in program tasks. The three overarching task characteristics highlighted in this study include tasks that support agency and autonomy, tasks that promote competence, and tasks that foster connectedness. Of these findings, tasks that allowed for collective action and provided opportunities to work with diverse populations were particularly significant within the context of the extant literature. Thematic analysis also revealed the importance of connecting program tasks with youth’s personal values and sociocultural identities. These individual and contextual factors provide insight into how these elements impact youth’s experiences of these activities and their subsequent motivation and engagement in their community organizing program.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Thesis is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this thesis through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.