[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper explores the complex process of hybridisation of third-sector housing and support organisations (TSOs) in Northern Ireland. The focus of the study is the policy field of housing-related support services, known in the UK as ‘Supporting People’. This is a hybrid policy field involving several government departments, a number of market mechanisms and two types of third-sector actors. The exercise of organisational agency to adapt to competing drivers is illuminated through mental health and homelessness case studies. The paper explores how competing external influences from the Northern Ireland Assembly, horizontal policies for the third-sector and vertical service commissioning policies interact with TSOs’ own adaptation strategies involving the deployment of robust third-sector identities. Hybridisation is found to involve not only the dominance of state drivers and the promotion of market mechanisms in both fields, but also enactment of third-sector identities. Our analysis of hybridization in this case counters Billis’ (2010) representation of third-sector identity as weak, in flux, and subject to erosion by focusing on the agency of TSOs to strategically adapt to and negotiate external drivers and thereby achieve competitive advantage. Through the enactment of identity in this adaptation process, resources such as legitimacy, charitable income and volunteers are secured. This provides opportunities for policy makers to add value if they are prepared to emphasise horizontal over vertical policy goals.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Following the suggestion of Ragin (1998, Voluntas, 9(3), 261–270), this article uses social origins theory (Salamon and Anheier, 1998, Voluntas, 9(3), 213–248) as an heuristic device to explore change in a specific field of nonprofit activity; the English housing association sector. Conventional histories of the sector in the twentieth century suggest a succession of eras with different policy drivers. These eras can be seen as consistent with shifts in welfare regime from liberal to social democratic (after 1919) and to neo-liberal/neo-corporatist (after 1980). Examples drawn from a panel study support the analysis of Esping-Anderson (1990, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Princeton University Press, Princeton) that underlying the apparent stability of welfare regimes there are constant processes of negotiation and conflict which may lead to transformations at organization, sector, or regime level. Rather than simply responding to policy drivers, some housing associations have been able to influence the environment in which policy is made and thereby to shape their own and the sector's transformations.