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Managing the needs of participants versus managing organizational demands: the impact of current welfare governance on the practice of third sector organizations

Els De Waele (UGent) and Lesley Hustinx (UGent)
Author
Organization
Abstract
Since the end of the twentieth century, it is increasingly becoming clear that the architecture of modern welfare regimes has changed. Under the influence of a crisis of/in the welfare state, an alternative mode of governing welfare has emerged (Jessop, 1999). In brief, literature reports on a hybridization process, which has from the 1980s onwards, led to a transition from an ‘organized’ welfare mix to a ‘disorganized’ welfare mix, in which ‘long-established patterns of a system-wide coordination via negotiated public-private partnerships turn into volatile configurations’ (Bode, 2006: 346). As a result, today social welfare provision is increasingly ‘(co)produced in a multifaceted process of inter-organizational exchange’, to a greater extent entailing an active role for civil society actors (Bode, 2006: 346-347). These changes in the mode of governing welfare inevitably have an impact on the organizational features and functioning of individual Third Sector Organizations (TSOs) and on the social services they deliver (Evers, 2005). As a result of the historical shift towards the ‘new era of welfare hybridity’, welfare is increasingly delivered by hybrid organizations that, in terms of public, private, and third, ‘possess ‘significant’ characteristics of more than one sector’ (Billis, 2010: 13, 3; Evers, 2005). However, notwithstanding these valuable insights in the historical changes in the modes of governing welfare, little is known about how, and with which consequences the concrete practice of TSOs takes shape under these conditions. Therefore, the following research question is formulated: How, and with which consequences does this historically new mode of governing welfare have an impact on the concrete practice of TSOs? To address this question, the study presented here draws on the empirical findings of an organization ethnography of a purposively sampled hybrid TSO. Based on the typology of hybridization in the Flemish context, provided by Hustinx, Verschuere, and De Corte (2013), the ultimately selected case could be characterized as an exponent of the new welfare mix: regarding its role positioning, the TSO on the one hand profiles itself as an organically grown, social-justice oriented TSO, which advocates with and for people living in poverty through the social services it delivers; on the other hand, the TSO serves as a facility in the government-dominated social economy. Furthermore, there is significant heterogeneity in the TSO’s human and financial resources, and in its stakeholders. During the field work, data was gathered in three ways: through participant observation and conversational interviews, through the collection of internal texts of the TSO, and finally, through an in-depth interview with a key representative from the TSO. This interview served two purposes: the gaining of further insights in the relations between the TSO’s concrete practice and the context of welfare governance in which the organization is embedded, and the creation of a feedback-loop on the researchers’ interpretations resulting from the participant observations and document analysis. Based on the document analysis and the participant observations, a discrepancy between the TSO’s discourse and its practice was observed. The TSO’s discourse revealed an emancipatory logic: the organization attempts to realize structural change through participative social entrepreneurship. In the daily interactions with its participants, furthermore, the TSO premises equality: no exclusion, no hierarchies, no categorization, no problematization, and no intervention. The TSO wants to create a ‘safety zone’, in which its participants can take part based on what they are good at, what they like to do, and what they would like to learn. At the TSO’s practice level, this mission is translated in three activities: advocacy, facilitating participation and personal growth of the participants, and social service delivery. Together, these activities were observed to create a specific organizational logic, in which a tension field between on the one hand facilitating participation and personal growth of the participants, and on the other hand monitoring organizational functioning an efficiency was present. During the participant observations, we detected how the professional staff members of the TSO balance this tension field in interaction with the TSO’s participants, by employing three strategies to safeguard smooth organizational functioning: (1) latent categorization of the participants as either ‘weak’ or ‘strong’, and in accordance to this, a different involvement of both groups in the TSO; (2) taking over instead of providing supportive assistance to the participants; and (3) pragmatic inclusion and pragmatic exclusion of participants. As such, in function of organizational demands, the TSO’s practice was frequently in contradiction to the TSO’s discourse. Although according to the TSO’s key representative the tension field is inherent to the TSO’s practice, evidence was found that two factors in the current mode of governing welfare both directly and indirectly reinforce this tension field, by raising the existing organizational demands. First, short-term and ‘chopped-up’ modes of funding, which are characteristic to current welfare governance, create uncertainty in financial resources and high complexity in the funding outcomes for the TSO. This uncertainty puts the basic operations and human resources of the TSO under pressure, since both have to be financed by short-term resources. As a result, the TSO’s staff members explain their struggles on the tension field by insufficient human resources to provide the participants with adequate supportive assistance in combination with the high demands monitoring the TSO makes on them. In their attempts to cope with the uncertainty in financial resources, through an uninterrupted applying for additional funding, the staff members are confronted with high administrative burdens, which again collide with their ability to provide supportive assistance. Second, in order to realize its emancipatory mission, the TSO appeals to a broad network of partnerships, which consists of partners from the public, the private, and the third sector. However the TSO obtains strategic and limited financial support through this network, it also reinforces the TSO’s tension field in three ways: (1) partner organizations become competitors in the battle for funding; (2) partner organizations refer their most ‘difficult’ clients to the TSO; and (3) because of potential financial risks and unrewarded engagement, partner organizations are hesitant to cooperate in initiatives which would reduce the TSO’s case load. To conclude, who are, based on this study, the ‘losers’ of the current mode of governing welfare? First, the TSO: the discrepancy between the TSO’s discourse and practice, and the reinforcement of the tension field present in the TSO’s practice, reveals how the TSO is confined in its mission by the current mode of welfare governance. Second, the most vulnerable participants of the TSO, for the outcomes of the staff’s coping strategies reveal how this group, in terms of chances for participation and personal growth, are confronted the hardest with the negative consequences of the high organizational demands. Billis, D. (2010). From welfare bureaucracies to welfare hybrids. In D. Billis (ed.), Hybrid organizations and the third sector: Challenges for practice, theory and policy (pp. 3-24). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Bode, I. (2006). Disorganized welfare mixes: voluntary agencies and new governance regimes in Western Europe. Journal of European social policy, 16(4), 346-359. Evers, A. (2005). Mixed welfare systems and hybrid organizations. International Journal of Public Administration, 28(9-10), 737-748. Hustinx, L., Verschuere, B., & De Corte, J. (2013). Welfare partnerships in the mix? Organizational hybridity in the third sector in Belgium. Journal of Social Policy, forthcoming. Jessop, B. (1999). The changing governance of welfare: recent trends in its primary functions, scale, and modes of coordination. Social Policy and Administration, 33(4): 348-359.

Citation

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Chicago
De Waele, Els, and Lesley Hustinx. 2014. “Managing the Needs of Participants Versus Managing Organizational Demands: The Impact of Current Welfare Governance on the Practice of Third Sector Organizations.” In Voluntas Conference, Abstracts.
APA
De Waele, E., & Hustinx, L. (2014). Managing the needs of participants versus managing organizational demands: the impact of current welfare governance on the practice of third sector organizations. Voluntas Conference, Abstracts. Presented at the Voluntas Conference.
Vancouver
1.
De Waele E, Hustinx L. Managing the needs of participants versus managing organizational demands: the impact of current welfare governance on the practice of third sector organizations. Voluntas Conference, Abstracts. 2014.
MLA
De Waele, Els, and Lesley Hustinx. “Managing the Needs of Participants Versus Managing Organizational Demands: The Impact of Current Welfare Governance on the Practice of Third Sector Organizations.” Voluntas Conference, Abstracts. 2014. Print.
@inproceedings{5787354,
  abstract     = {Since the end of the twentieth century, it is increasingly becoming clear that the architecture of modern welfare regimes has changed. Under the influence of a crisis of/in the welfare state, an alternative mode of governing welfare has emerged (Jessop, 1999). In brief, literature reports on a hybridization process, which has from the 1980s onwards, led to a transition from an {\textquoteleft}organized{\textquoteright} welfare mix to a {\textquoteleft}disorganized{\textquoteright} welfare mix, in which {\textquoteleft}long-established patterns of a system-wide coordination via negotiated public-private partnerships turn into volatile configurations{\textquoteright} (Bode, 2006: 346). As a result, today social welfare provision is increasingly {\textquoteleft}(co)produced in a multifaceted process of inter-organizational exchange{\textquoteright}, to a greater extent entailing an active role for civil society actors (Bode, 2006: 346-347). These changes in the mode of governing welfare inevitably have an impact on the organizational features and functioning of individual Third Sector Organizations (TSOs) and on the social services they deliver (Evers, 2005). As a result of the historical shift towards the {\textquoteleft}new era of welfare hybridity{\textquoteright}, welfare is increasingly delivered by hybrid organizations that, in terms of public, private, and third, {\textquoteleft}possess {\textquoteleft}significant{\textquoteright} characteristics of more than one sector{\textquoteright} (Billis, 2010: 13, 3; Evers, 2005). However, notwithstanding these valuable insights in the historical changes in the modes of governing welfare, little is known about how, and with which consequences the concrete practice of TSOs takes shape under these conditions. Therefore, the following research question is formulated: How, and with which consequences does this historically new mode of governing welfare have an impact on the concrete practice of TSOs? To address this question, the study presented here draws on the empirical findings of an organization ethnography of a purposively sampled hybrid TSO. Based on the typology of hybridization in the Flemish context, provided by Hustinx, Verschuere, and De Corte (2013), the ultimately selected case could be characterized as an exponent of the new welfare mix: regarding  its role positioning, the TSO on the one hand profiles itself as an organically grown, social-justice oriented TSO, which advocates with and for people living in poverty through the social services it delivers; on the other hand, the TSO serves as a facility in the government-dominated social economy. Furthermore, there is significant heterogeneity in the TSO{\textquoteright}s human and financial resources, and in its stakeholders. During the field work, data was gathered in three ways: through participant observation and conversational interviews, through the collection of internal texts of the TSO, and finally, through an in-depth interview with a key representative from the TSO. This interview served two purposes: the gaining of further insights in the relations between the TSO{\textquoteright}s concrete practice and the context of welfare governance in which the organization is embedded, and the creation of a feedback-loop on the researchers{\textquoteright} interpretations resulting from the participant observations and document analysis.\unmatched{0009}
\unmatched{0009}Based on the document analysis and the participant observations, a discrepancy between the TSO{\textquoteright}s discourse and its practice was observed. The TSO{\textquoteright}s discourse revealed an emancipatory logic: the organization attempts to realize structural change through participative social entrepreneurship. In the daily interactions with its participants, furthermore, the TSO premises equality: no exclusion, no hierarchies, no categorization, no problematization, and no intervention. The TSO wants to create a {\textquoteleft}safety zone{\textquoteright}, in which its participants can take part based on what they are good at, what they like to do, and what they would like to learn. At the TSO{\textquoteright}s practice level, this mission is translated in three activities: advocacy, facilitating participation and personal growth of the participants, and social service delivery. Together, these activities were observed to create a specific organizational logic, in which a tension field between on the one hand facilitating participation and personal growth of the participants, and on the other hand monitoring organizational functioning an efficiency was present. During the participant observations, we detected how the professional staff members of the TSO balance this tension field in interaction with the TSO{\textquoteright}s participants, by employing three strategies to safeguard smooth organizational functioning: (1) latent categorization of the participants as either {\textquoteleft}weak{\textquoteright} or {\textquoteleft}strong{\textquoteright}, and in accordance to this, a different involvement of both groups in the TSO; (2) taking over instead of providing supportive assistance to the participants; and (3) pragmatic inclusion and pragmatic exclusion of participants. As such, in function of organizational demands, the TSO{\textquoteright}s practice was frequently in contradiction to the TSO{\textquoteright}s discourse. Although according to the TSO{\textquoteright}s key representative the tension field is inherent to the TSO{\textquoteright}s practice, evidence was found that two factors in the current mode of governing welfare both directly and indirectly reinforce this tension field, by raising the existing organizational demands. First, short-term and {\textquoteleft}chopped-up{\textquoteright} modes of funding, which are characteristic to current welfare governance, create uncertainty in financial resources and high complexity in the funding outcomes for the TSO. This uncertainty puts the basic operations and human resources of the TSO under pressure, since both have to be financed by short-term resources. As a result, the TSO{\textquoteright}s staff members explain their struggles on the tension field by insufficient human resources to provide the participants with adequate supportive assistance in combination with the high demands monitoring the TSO makes on them. In their attempts to cope with the uncertainty in financial resources, through an uninterrupted applying for additional funding, the staff members are confronted with high administrative burdens, which again collide with their ability to provide supportive assistance. Second, in order to realize its emancipatory mission, the TSO appeals to a broad network of partnerships, which consists of partners from the public, the private, and the third sector. However the TSO obtains strategic and limited financial support through this network, it also reinforces the TSO{\textquoteright}s tension field in three ways: (1) partner organizations become competitors in the battle for funding; (2) partner organizations refer their most {\textquoteleft}difficult{\textquoteright} clients to the TSO; and (3) because of potential financial risks and unrewarded engagement, partner organizations are hesitant to cooperate in initiatives which would reduce the TSO{\textquoteright}s case load.\unmatched{0009}
\unmatched{0009}To conclude, who are, based on this study, the {\textquoteleft}losers{\textquoteright} of the current mode of governing welfare? First, the TSO: the discrepancy between the TSO{\textquoteright}s discourse and practice, and the reinforcement of the tension field present in the TSO{\textquoteright}s practice, reveals how the TSO is confined in its mission by the current mode of welfare governance. Second, the most vulnerable participants of the TSO, for the outcomes of the staff{\textquoteright}s coping strategies reveal how this group, in terms of chances for participation and personal growth, are confronted the hardest with the negative consequences of the high organizational demands.

Billis, D. (2010). From welfare bureaucracies to welfare hybrids. In D. Billis (ed.), Hybrid organizations and the third sector: Challenges for practice, theory and policy (pp. 3-24). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bode, I. (2006). Disorganized welfare mixes: voluntary agencies and new governance regimes in Western Europe. Journal of European social policy, 16(4), 346-359.
Evers, A. (2005). Mixed welfare systems and hybrid organizations. International Journal of Public Administration, 28(9-10), 737-748.
Hustinx, L., Verschuere, B., \& De Corte, J. (2013). Welfare partnerships in the mix? Organizational hybridity in the third sector in Belgium. Journal of Social Policy, forthcoming.
Jessop, B. (1999). The changing governance of welfare: recent trends in its primary functions, scale, and modes of coordination. Social Policy and Administration, 33(4): 348-359.},
  author       = {De Waele, Els and Hustinx, Lesley},
  booktitle    = {Voluntas Conference, Abstracts},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Copenhagen, Denmark},
  title        = {Managing the needs of participants versus managing organizational demands: the impact of current welfare governance on the practice of third sector organizations},
  year         = {2014},
}