Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Brian Tanguay

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study focuses on the factors that motivate individuals to participate in the affairs of collective action organizations and ultimately take up leadership responsibilities. The leadership of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is used as a case study because it is an organization that purports to represent the interest of students in post-secondary institutions in Canada. The study employed personal interviews as the main method of data collection. The interviews were semi-structured since certain questions were asked as a result of the responses given to questions in the interview schedule. The interviews enabled the researcher to probe into the minds of the respondents and also get a better understanding of their viewpoints and perspectives. Twelve executive members of the CFS were interviewed for this study. In order not to accept at face value the responses of the leadership of CFS, six representatives of the Ontario Undergraduates Students’ Alliance (OUSA) were also interviewed. As a rival organization, OUSA has been very critical of CFS. By interviewing OUSA representatives, the study aimed at critically examining the responses of CFS respondents. This enabled the researcher to get a balanced understanding of the factors that motivated the formation of student organizations. The study was designed to examine the role selective incentives and inducements play in the decision to be part of the leadership of CFS. In so doing, the study examined the evolution of student movements in Canada which resulted in CFS’ formation. Following the work of other researchers, this study categorized the incentives and motives for the participation of the CFS’ leadership into social, purposive and economic factors. Social incentives and motives include friendship, status, and prestige; purposive incentives and motives include the efforts to influence government policies to obtain broader goals; and economic incentives go to enhance job and career prospects. The findings of the study showed that although economic benefits and incentives are important in influencing the decision to join the leadership of CFS, non-economic reasons should also be considered before any conclusion can be made about the decision-making process of individuals. It came to light that social and purposive incentives are important factors that motivate participation in CFS’ affairs. In this vein, any attempt at understanding the internal dynamics of interest groups and social movement organizations should adopt an integrative approach. Such an approach provides a better framework that enhances our understanding and perspective of the internal dynamics of interest groups and social movement organizations.

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