How Participant Values Influence Reasons for Pursuing Voluntary Program Membership

2018, Public Administration, with Tanya Heikkila & Christopher M. Weible

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Among the policy instruments used to pursue social and environmental goals, voluntary programmes are seen as ‘win‐win’ opportunities. Despite a sizeable literature documenting reasons individuals opt into voluntary programmes, little attention has been paid to why participants are motivated by certain reasons more than others. This article addresses this gap. Using data from a survey of organic producers in the United States Department of Agriculture's organic certification programme, we examine how organic producers’ values relate to their stated reasons for pursuing organic certification. Along the way, we test hypotheses inspired by grid‐group cultural theory, as well as a hypothesis regarding the alignment of participants’ values and the substantive programme domain. Study findings provide consistent support for the value‐alignment hypothesis and mixed support for grid‐group expectations. We conclude by discussing the findings’ implications for voluntary programme theory and empirical programme success.