Inside Komen's NGOized Culture

Boyd, Kate; Storm, Cristien
Date Written:  2014-03-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20383

The authors analyze the monopoly that the Komen Foundation has over breast cancer research and how the process of "NGOization" has cultivated a consumer culture in how participants engage with the movement.



We are particularly interested in how Komen operates at the axis of charitable consumerism and participatory citizenship in ways that mirror corporate consumption practices, where concerned consumers engage in the market in ways that "feel good." To this end, consumers can feel good, both about themselves and about how their purchasing power is positively impacting the world.

Komen uses an extraordinarily effective model of organizing that mobilizes consumers through extremely well-funded, meticulously designed events in which participants can engage in various activities (consuming, racing, testifying) that create personal identities ("I'm a Survivor," "Real Men Wear Pink," "Positive Warrior") and the social relationships that determine how an individual knows themselves in the world.

This is indeed the power of culture, a formidable organizing principle that organizations and social movements have always used, and one that Komen has mastered.


A sustained look at Race for the Cure offers insight into the professionally mutual relations among philanthropic foundations, the state, corporations and NGOs that shape the increasingly complex political landscapes of our moment. More specifically, it also illuminates the powerful role that cause-marketing plays under NGOization -- a role we note is particularly effective for organizing the emotions of consumers who sincerely believe their pink Red Bull purchases and races for "the Cure" directly fund research that will undoubtedly discover a cure and end breast cancer.

Our concern is not only that Race for the Cure activist tactics generate incredibly lucrative business for a shocking array of corporate sponsors, but that the emotions of these consumers are also being directed to not think critically about the multiple layers and complexities of the politics and big business of breast cancer.

Subject Headings

Insert T_CxShareButtonsHorizontal.html here