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Institutional Work in Changing Public Service Organizations: The Interplay Between Professionalization Strategies of Non-Elite Actors

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It is often argued that increased volunteer participation in public service organizations will lead to de-professionalization of established professionals. Adopting a relational approach, this article shows that professionalization of new actors can actually initiate and reinforce the professionalization of others. This article focuses on the interplay between nonelite actors in social care that carry out institutional work aimed at pursuing three strategies: classic professionalization of volunteer coordinators, proto-professionalization of volunteers, and advanced professionalization of social care practitioners. Potential negative implications of these professionalization strategies are the hollowing out of paid social care work and the exclusion of vulnerable volunteers.
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https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399718786880
Administration & Society
1 –27
© The Author(s) 2018
DOI: 10.1177/0095399718786880
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Original Article
Institutional Work
in Changing Public
Service Organizations:
The Interplay Between
Professionalization
Strategies of Non-Elite
Actors
Marianne van Bochove1
and Lieke Oldenhof1
Abstract
It is often argued that increased volunteer participation in public service
organizations will lead to de-professionalization of established professionals.
Adopting a relational approach, this article shows that professionalization of
new actors can actually initiate and reinforce the professionalization of others.
This article focuses on the interplay between nonelite actors in social care
that carry out institutional work aimed at pursuing three strategies: classic
professionalization of volunteer coordinators, proto-professionalization of
volunteers, and advanced professionalization of social care practitioners.
Potential negative implications of these professionalization strategies are
the hollowing out of paid social care work and the exclusion of vulnerable
volunteers.
Keywords
welfare state reform, professionalism, public services, volunteers, institutional
work
1Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Marianne van Bochove, Assistant Professor, Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management,
Erasmus University Rotterdam, P.O. Box 1738, Rotterdam NL-3000 DR, The Netherlands.
Email: vanbochove@eshpm.eur.nl
786880AASXXX10.1177/0095399718786880Administration & Societyvan Bochove and Oldenhof
research-article2018
2 Administration & Society 00(0)
Introduction
In many welfare states today, responsibilities for public services increasingly
are distributed from professionals to citizens, who are encouraged to adopt
roles as volunteers, co-producers, and informal care givers (Bach, Kessler, &
Heron, 2007; Liljegren, Höjer, & Forkby, 2014; Newman & Tonkens, 2011;
Oldenhof, Postma, & Bal, 2016; Van Bochove, Tonkens, Verplanke, &
Roggeveen, 2018). The redistribution of responsibilities has led to the recur-
ring critique that welfare states are “de-professionalizing.” Underlying this
critique is the assumption that professional roles and power are significantly
reduced: not only by the involvement of laypersons in public service provi-
sion but also due to managerial encroachment and standardization of profes-
sional work (Fournier, 2000). Parallel to trends of de-professionalization, we
see the development of new forms of professionalism (Duyvendak, Knijn, &
Kremer, 2006; Evetts, 2009, 2011). Not only practitioners in “less profes-
sionalized” fields (Noordegraaf, 2016, p. 800), such as ambulance personnel
and social workers, but also managers and even “lay experts” make claims to
the label of professionalism by adopting classical features of professionals,
such as standards, ethical codes, and educational curricula (Evetts, 2003;
Heite, 2012; Millward, 2005; Newman & Clarke, 2009; Noordegraaf &
Schinkel, 2011; Oldenhof, Stoopendaal, & Putters, 2016).
While trends of professionalization and de-professionalization are often
portrayed as trade-offs, in line with Noordegraaf, van der Steen, and van
Twist (2014, p. 25), we argue that these developments do not need to oppose
each other in binary ways (“win/lose”) or result in quantitative outcomes
(“more/less” professionalism). In this article, we will show that “more” pro-
fessionalization of new occupations and unpaid work does not necessarily
lead to “less” professionalization of other occupations. In fact, professional-
ization of new actors may even initiate and reinforce re-professionalization
strategies of established professionals.
The aim of this article is to investigate the relational dynamics between
different strategies of professionalization at play in changing welfare states.
In doing so, we respond to recent calls to investigate relational dimensions of
professionalism (Duyvendak et al., 2006; Noordegraaf et al., 2014). A rela-
tional approach to professionalism assumes that agency is distributed between
actors that pursue professionalization (Lawrence, Suddaby, & Leca, 2011;
Suddaby & Viale, 2011). As a consequence, multiple “professional projects”
(Larson, 1977) in which actors shape and (re)claim professional status are
interdependent and affect each other in unintended ways. Moreover, rela-
tional dynamics between professional projects may lead to field-level institu-
tional change, thereby reshaping the process of public service provision in
van Bochove and Oldenhof 3
welfare states. According to Lawrence et al. (2011), distributed agency thus
“invites researchers to explore how individual actors contribute to institu-
tional change, how those contributions combine, how actors respond to one
another’s efforts, and how the accumulation of those contributions leads to a
path of institutional change or stability” (p. 55).
To further flesh out the relational and institutional dynamics of profession-
alism, we use the concept of institutional work. This concept is particularly
suitable to analyze how actors not only respond to changes in their own work
and the larger welfare state but also actively shape institutional change both
within and outside their own organization. Institutional work refers to the
creation, maintenance, and disruption of institutions (Lawrence & Suddaby,
2006). So far, the majority of studies on institutional work have focused on
institutional work of a certain profession that aims to defend and maintain
professional power, such as doctors and managers (Cloutier, Denis, Langley,
& Lamothe, 2016; Currie, Locket, Finn, Martin, & Waring, 2012). In this
article, we build on these studies, but take the analysis one step further by
exploring the relational dynamics between the professionalization strategies
of multiple actors: that is, volunteers, social care practitioners, and volunteer
coordinators.
By focusing on collaboration between these actors, we are able to contrib-
ute to the literature on institutional work in three ways. First, we will show
mutual dependencies at play in institutional work: the success or failure of
each professionalization strategy depends on the interaction with other strate-
gies. This will allow us to analyze the networked nature of professional proj-
ects that are interconnected in the enactment of institutional work. Second,
existing studies have primarily focused on elite professionals and high status
groups that act as institutional agents (Scott, 2008; Suddaby & Viale, 2011).
It is well known that elite professionals have the necessary resources to carry
out institutional work effectively. There is, however, still little knowledge
about institutional work of nonelite actors and whether these actors are able
to play the institutional game (notable exceptions are Coule & Patmore,
2013; McCann, Granter, Hyde, & Hassard, 2013; Simmons, 2016). Third, we
will show how professionalization strategies can be both developed from
“within” and implemented “top-down” to enforce new relations and work
distributions (see also Evetts, 2011).
Based on observations and semistructured interviews with social care
practitioners, volunteers, and volunteer coordinators, we answer the main
research question:
Research Question: How do various actors in social care organizations
respond to shifts from paid to unpaid work?
4 Administration & Society 00(0)
More specifically, we are interested in (a) the institutional work they perform
in reaction to these shifts, and with what aims they do so; (b) the conse-
quences this institutional work has for their own and others’ position as “pro-
fessional”; and (c) the consequences it has for the organizational field of
social care.
We will first discuss the changing nature of professionalism. We then
describe the usefulness of the concept of institutional work in analyzing rela-
tional dynamics between professionalization strategies. Next, we will intro-
duce our qualitative methods and present our findings. After describing
professionalization strategies per actor, we will analyze both the mutual
dependencies and frictions within and between the strategies. In the conclu-
sion, we will reflect on the institutional change that professionalization strat-
egies embody and the implications this has for the capacity of social care
organizations to meet their missions.
The Contested and Relational Nature of
Professionalization Strategies
The nature of professionalism is increasingly contested as practitioners
such as teachers, nurses, and social workers are confronted with manage-
rial reform and increasing involvement of “non-professional” outsiders,
such as paid teaching and health care assistants (Bach et al., 2007) and
unpaid volunteers (Van Bochove et al., 2018) in public service provision.
Common critiques address risks of de-professionalization and potential
dangers of job displacement (Ockenden, Hill, & Stuart, 2012). While
trends of professionalization and de-professionalization are often por-
trayed as trade-offs, we argue that it is more fruitful to focus on the rela-
tional dimensions of professionalization. Following Noordegraaf et al.
(2014), we “analyze the mechanisms for building a professional field,
amidst dependencies and ambiguities” (p. 25). An analysis of relational
dynamics between different professionalization strategies is key for sev-
eral reasons. First, a relational approach sheds light on the broad variety of
professionalization strategies that actors can instrumentally employ to
claim professional status themselves or bestow professional status on oth-
ers. The differences between strategies can give valuable insights into
various action repertoires and mundane efforts to change the division
between paid and unpaid work. Second, a relational approach acknowl-
edges that different actors pursue multiple professionalization agendas
that sometimes align and reinforce each other, but at other times clash
(Suddaby & Viale, 2011). According to McCann et al. (2013), “[t]he com-
plex and often contradictory relationship of multiple levels of (formal and
van Bochove and Oldenhof 5
informal) action in institutional change and professional projects promises
to be a highly fruitful area for further research” (p. 772).
In the literature, a variety of professionalization strategies are identified.
Noordegraaf and Schinkel (2011), for example, discuss how managers follow
“classic” professionalization strategies that mimic established professionals
such as doctors. These classic strategies encompass the building of associa-
tions and educational programs as well as the establishment of work codes
and protocols that standardize technical expertise and service ethics. As
becomes clear from this example, professionalization can be developed
“from within” when an occupational group aims to improve its status.
However, Evetts (2011) argues that it is also important to look at profession-
alization strategies imposed “from above” by the organization to discipline
the worker into adopting new work methods and responsibilities. When
viewed as imposed from above, professionalization may lead either to forms
of resistance or to the internalization of new ways of working. Although pro-
fessionalization from within and from above seem to exclude each other,
McCann et al. (2013) demonstrate that they can co-exist in organizations,
albeit in contradictory ways. Their analysis of the professionalization of
ambulance workers reveals that “formal, senior level” entrepreneurship
focuses on lobbying at the policy level for higher recognition and more dis-
cretionary space for ambulance workers, whereas “informal, street-level”
professionalization is aimed at merely coping with work pressures and the
maintenance of “blue-collar professionalism” (McCann et al., 2013, p. 769).
The above-mentioned professionalization strategies focus on occupations;
yet especially when it comes to lay outsiders, there are different strategies
involved. In this light, De Swaan (1988) and Dent (2006) discuss the term
“proto-professionalization” to describe the process that patients and their
families in the Western world have undergone: Through the medicalization of
everyday life, they have learned to define what bothers them “in terms of
some available proto-professional vocabulary” (Dent, 2006, p. 458), which is
“a simplified and censored version of professional knowledge” (De Swaan,
1988, p. 244). As these authors argue, laypersons have learned to express
their problems and needs in a proto-professional vocabulary that is recogniz-
able and legitimate in the eyes of professionals. Existing literature primarily
applies the strategy of proto-professionalization to attempts of laypersons to
gain power in a professional domain; yet this strategy can also be imple-
mented “from above” when public service organizations want to distribute
responsibilities to volunteers.
To this point, the interaction between different professionalization strate-
gies—including both strategies applied from above and from within, and
both strategies directed at laypersons and practitioners of occupations—has
6 Administration & Society 00(0)
received little attention. However, especially this interaction may shed light
on how institutional change comes about in current welfare states.
Institutional Change and the Enactment of
Institutional Work
In both institutional analysis and the literature on the sociology of profes-
sions, there is a growing recognition that professionalization strategies are
not just about the transformation of occupations but also affect the broader
institutional environment and organizational field (McCann et al., 2013;
Scott, 2008; Suddaby & Viale, 2011). According to Suddaby and Viale
(2011), professionalization strategies are endogenous mechanisms for both
institutionalization and field-level change. By (re)defining jurisdictional,
occupational, and educational boundaries, professionalization strategies con-
tribute to (further) institutionalization of an existing or new occupational
domain and consequently also influence the dynamics of the broader field
(e.g., health care, social care, primary care). Seen this way, professionaliza-
tion is not just about self-interest but encompasses “a collective effort to gov-
ern changing relations and dependencies in and around service organizations”
(Noordegraaf & Schinkel, 2011, p. 114). In the governance of these changing
relations, new task divisions are shaped between professional and nonprofes-
sional actors, and the nature of professional work itself is reconfigured. For
example, the question of what constitutes a “good” social worker or nurse is
constantly renegotiated in relation to other fields and new actors. Due to the
interrelated and overlapping nature of professional projects and the distribu-
tion of agency, dynamics of professionalization cannot be unilaterally defined
and often turn out to be quite contradictory. This explains why institutional
and field-level change is incremental in nature and therefore hardly notice-
able when zooming in on the organizational level (McCann et al., 2013).
To be able to notice subtle differences in the way actors put on a profes-
sional performance in relation to others (Hodgson, 2005), it is especially fruit-
ful to look at the role of rhetoric when analyzing professionalization strategies
(Fournier, 1999; Oldenhof, Postma, & Bal, 2016; Thomas & Hewitt, 2011;
Watson, 2002). By rhetorically labeling certain roles and behavior as “profes-
sional,” actors can pursue various goals, ranging from the legitimization of
new work activities and status increase to the demarcation of occupational
boundaries vis à vis others (cf. Watson, 2002; Bucher, Chreim, Langley, &
Reay, 2016). Likewise, professional rhetoric and talk can be strategically used
by actors “to influence the direction and pace of change, but also to legitimate
or delegitimate the acceptance of a particular program of change” (Suddaby &
Viale, 2011, p. 434). Given the shifting boundaries between paid and unpaid
van Bochove and Oldenhof 7
staff in many public service organizations across welfare states (Eliasoph,
2011; Overgaard, 2015; Van Bochove et al., 2018), it is particularly relevant to
research how organizational change in such organizations is promoted via the
enactment of various professionalization strategies.
The extent to which professionalization strategies stick and materialize
into new work practices (rather than remaining a rhetorical act) is largely
dependent on the institutional work performed by actors embedded in organi-
zations. According to Lawrence et al. (2011),
[t]he study of institutional work takes as its point of departure an interest in
work—the efforts of individuals and collective actors to cope with, keep up
with, shore up, tear down, tinker with, transform, or create anew the institutional
structures within which they live, work, and play, and which give them their
roles, relationships, resources, and routines. (p. 53)
This definition of institutional work draws our attention to the mundane work
that actors perform to create, maintain, and disrupt institutions (Lawrence &
Suddaby, 2006). Rather than being subjected to macro institutional forces,
individual actors can incrementally exert influence on the institutional con-
text by enacting institutional work on an everyday basis.
Recent studies have defined different types of institutional work with
increasing levels of detail (Cloutier et al., 2016; Currie et al., 2012; Lawrence
& Suddaby, 2006). For the purposes of this article, we will especially focus
on three types of institutional work: “defining,” “educating,” and “embed-
ding and routinizing.” Defining refers to the activity of demarcating occupa-
tional domains or work activities, which creates status hierarchies within a
field (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006). Educating refers to the development of
educational programs and credentials required for holding new roles (Currie
et al., 2012). It is important to note that educating can have varying degrees
of (in)formality: ranging from formalized master programs at universities to
more ad hoc and informal forms of education, such as on-the-job training.
Especially when focusing on nonelite actors, these informal forms of educat-
ing are important to include. Embedding and routinizing refers to the infusion
of “normative foundations of an institution in the day-to-day routines and
organizational practices” (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006, p. 233). Formal docu-
ments, for instance, can have a stabilizing influence.
Analyzing different types of institutional work that are enacted in the pur-
suit of professionalization strategies enables us to (a) shed light on the rela-
tional connections between different types of institutional work within
professionalization strategies (cf. Cloutier et al., 2016 on relational work); (b)
demonstrate the connections and tensions between different
8 Administration & Society 00(0)
professionalization strategies; and (c) demonstrate the field-level change that
occurs as a consequence of these interactions.
Research Design
The presence and professionalization of new actors makes the Dutch social
care sector an interesting case to analyze relational dynamics between differ-
ent professionalization strategies. In the context of recent decentralizations of
social care and support, local governments actively promote the participation
of volunteers. This leads to new tasks distributions between social care prac-
titioners, volunteers, and volunteer coordinators. On the one hand, volunteer
participation in social care is viewed as a necessary requirement to realize
budget cuts and to create less reliance on professional care that is assumed to
hinder clients’ self-sufficiency and empowerment (VWS, 1999, cited in
Grootegoed, 2013). On the other hand, professionals and labor unions criti-
cize volunteer responsibilization, as it would lead to work substitution and
decreasing quality of care (Skipr, 2014).
This article is based on data collected for the research project “Can’t We
Leave That to the Volunteers?” (2012-2014), which was a cooperation
between the University of Amsterdam (where the first author worked at the
time) and several governmental and social partners. The project focused on
recent shifts in tasks from paid workers to volunteers in care and social ser-
vices and the consequences for how both groups experience their work and
collaboration (cf. Van Bochove et al., 2018). The cases were selected in
consultation with the project partners and pertain to the domains of long-
term care and social work, as the expansion of volunteer responsibilities is
prominent there. The cases consisted of two nursing homes for frail elderly,
three day care activity centers for clients with mental disabilities, seven
community centers, and four children’s playgrounds. The long-term care
organization that runs the two selected nursing homes has reduced profes-
sional staff over the years due to cutbacks, and the organization promotes
further involvement of volunteers in tasks directed at the clients’ well-being,
such as going for walks and preparing meals. The day care activity centers
also assigned more tasks to volunteers: volunteers are increasingly involved
in helping during activities such as handicrafts, gardening, gymnastics, and
playing games. In the neighborhood centers and playgrounds, volunteers are
not only expected to assist paid workers but increasingly also take over tasks
that were previously part of the social workers’ core tasks, such as planning
and organizing activities (e.g., dancing classes and language courses in
neighborhood centers and themed activities in playgrounds) and applying
for subsidies.
van Bochove and Oldenhof 9
The fieldwork consisted of semistructured interviews with and observa-
tions of volunteers and paid staff. Most of the interviewed paid staff (n = 66)
consisted of nurses, nurse assistants, activity coordinators, and social work-
ers. We refer to these respondents as social care practitioners. In addition,
volunteer coordinators and middle managers were included, of which par-
ticularly the eight interviews with volunteer coordinators are relevant for the
purposes of this article. The volunteers (n = 68) formed a heterogeneous
group regarding the tasks they performed, how often and how many hours
they volunteered, their education level, gender, age, and ethnic background.
Figure 1 gives an overview of the respondents per case.
The research team also observed volunteers and paid staff during their
daily activities, to find out more about the division of tasks and responsi-
bilities. Moreover, researchers attended staff meetings, including a meeting
of volunteer coordinators of the selected long-term care organization. In
addition, relevant documents collected during the fieldwork—including
volunteer “contracts” and job descriptions of volunteer coordinators—were
analyzed.
The project team coded the interviews and observations, using Atlas.ti. In
total, more than 300 codes were included, covering a wide range of themes.
The present analysis focuses on codes that provide information on profes-
sionalization. We analyzed the data by looking at how actors talked about
what it means to be a professional in general and more specifically profes-
sional competencies and professional behavior (cf. Watson, 2002). This talk
could relate to their own professionalism as well as that of others. We also
Figure 1. Respondents per case.
10 Administration & Society 00(0)
investigated how “professional talk” (Oldenhof, Postma, & Bal, 2016;
Watson, 2002) materialized in behavioral norms, codes, standards, and con-
tracts. We re-read and re-coded the interviews with and observation of volun-
teer coordinators, as changes in their roles were not previously analyzed.
Based on our analysis, we found various types of institutional work per-
formed by different actors in pursuing three different—but interrelated—pro-
fessionalization strategies. We also found various forms of resistance within
and tensions between strategies. Although our analysis showed that the
selected cases have their own specifics, we found similar professionalization
strategies across them. We therefore organize our findings based on relevant
themes, instead of on separate cases. However, we do address important dif-
ferences between the domains of long-term care and social work.
Figure 2 depicts the links between the themes, codes, and theoretical
dimensions.
Professionalization Strategies and Institutional
Work
We describe three interrelated professionalization strategies and pay attention
to the institutional work that actors carry out in pursuing these strategies.
Although we draw an analytical distinction between professionalization strat-
egies, in practice, actors respond to one another’s efforts, and therefore, one
strategy cannot be fully understood without considering the others (Figure 3).
Figure 2. Data structure.
van Bochove and Oldenhof 11
Classic Professionalization of Volunteer Coordinators
In response to policies that increase volunteer responsibilization, volunteer
coordinators—paid workers who coordinate voluntary work within organiza-
tions—have become more important in the field of social care. Volunteer
coordinators actively professionalize their occupation through a “classic”
professionalization strategy that involves building associations, setting up
educational programs, and establishing work codes (cf. Noordegraaf &
Schinkel, 2011). We will discuss the classic professionalization efforts of vol-
unteer coordinators based on three forms of institutional work: defining, edu-
cating, and routinizing and embedding.
Defining a “professional” volunteer coordinator. Individual volunteer coordina-
tors and their collectives determine boundaries of membership and establish
status hierarchies within their field. By discursively drawing boundaries
between “professional” volunteer coordinators that possess certain strategic
skills and volunteer coordinators that lack those skills, volunteer coordinators
play a central role in defining membership on a day-to-day basis. Moreover,
the Dutch association of volunteer coordinators (AGORA) further enhances
status hierarchies by drawing a distinction between volunteer coordinators
who perform simpler “operational” or “facilitating tasks,” and volunteer
coordinators who perform more complex “policy tasks”:
Although the work of some coordinators still purely consists of operational
tasks, a clear progression is visible to a more policy-oriented interpretation of
the occupation. There are increasingly more organizations in which volunteer
coordinators are only occupied with policy tasks, and not or barely with
operational tasks. (AGORA, 2014, p. 33)
Figure 3. Three interrelated professionalization strategies.
12 Administration & Society 00(0)
To further define membership boundaries, AGORA (2014) created an occupa-
tional profile that distinguishes “occupational competences,” of which the
first is “professionalism,” defined as “the degree to which one possesses sub-
stantive technical knowledge, expertise and skills, which are needed to be able
to properly carry out the position of volunteer coordinator” (p. 33). Other
competences include collaboration, customer-centeredness, and integrity,
defined as “dealing with personal information in line with ethical norms and
values, both in language and in behavior, also under difficult circumstances”
(AGORA, 2014, p. 33). By defining what a professional volunteer coordinator
does (i.e., performing policy tasks) and how he or she does this (based on
knowledge and integrity), individual and collective actors (re)shape “the insti-
tutional structures within which they . . . work” (Lawrence et al., 2011, p. 53).
Educating volunteer coordinators. New roles require education in how to per-
form them. In accordance with AGORAs main aim of contributing to the
professionalization of the position of the volunteer coordinator, they also
offer educational training. Together with a university of applied sciences,
AGORA developed the post-bachelor training “Innovative Volunteer Man-
agement,” which has a study load of 420 hr and is completed with a certifi-
cate (Hogeschool Utrecht, 2017). The applications always exceed the
maximum, so the university plans to increase the capacity. According to the
program coordinator, the reasons why people want to enroll have changed in
the past few years: from wanting to master good matchmaking to wanting to
learn more about positioning themselves and others within the organization
(personal communication). In response to these changes, the curriculum now
focuses more on educating the professional, that is, policy-oriented, volun-
teer coordinator.
Next to this type of “formal, senior level institutional entrepreneurship,”
educating also takes place as “informal, street-level institutional work”
(McCann et al., 2013, p. 772). By organizing regular meetings with peers,
volunteer coordinators discuss their work in terms of increasing volunteer
commitment and improving teamwork in care delivery. These meetings not
only offer an opportunity for sharing work experiences but also have an edu-
cational purpose to enhance informal learning.
Embedding and routinizing the work of volunteer coordinators. Volunteer coordi-
nators try to embed the notion of professional volunteer coordinating into
their own and other actors’ day-to-day routines and organizational practices
by standardizing work methods. For example, a volunteer coordinator of an
organization that runs several day care activity centers took the initiative to
develop a coherent volunteer policy, to end the situation in which all
van Bochove and Oldenhof 13
locations “did what they thought was right.” She said to them, “This is how
we are going to do it from now.” Efforts to embed their practices more firmly
in the organization seem successful as managers increasingly recognize the
importance of having volunteer coordinators represented at the policy level.
Proto-Professionalization of Volunteers
In addition to “classic” professionalization of their own occupation, volun-
teer coordinators are involved in proto-professionalizing volunteers. They
do not try to turn volunteers into “real” or “classic” professionals, but into
“professional-like” volunteers—“professionals in nuce” (De Swaan, 1988,
p. 245)—who possess a simplified version of professional status and skills.
The occupational profile for volunteer coordinators states that it is the
“coordinator’s responsibility to stimulate and maintain the abilities and
knowledge of volunteers” to “improve and guarantee the quality of volun-
tary work and contribute to its professionalization” (AGORA, 2014, p. 37).
The forms of institutional work volunteer coordinators carry out to proto-
professionalize volunteers are similar to those aimed at classic profession-
alization of their own occupation: defining, educating, and embedding and
routinizing.
Defining a “professional-like” volunteer. Volunteer coordinators urge actors in
their organizations to stop talking about “professionals and volunteers” as
this creates a false dichotomy. They prefer more neutral terms, such as “paid
and unpaid workers,” as volunteers can also be “professional” in terms of
work behavior and educational background. The adjective “professional” is
generally reserved for volunteers who have a higher education level, have
work experience in the social care sector, and possess additional qualities that
are valued (Van Bochove et al., 2018). In a policy document, one of the social
work organizations defines a “voluntary professional” as a volunteer that per-
forms types of voluntary work (such as administrative tasks or mediating in
conflicts) that require “specific expertise” which can be acquired through
training offered by the organization.
Educating volunteers. Across organizations, simplified training programs for
volunteers are increasingly common and formalized. Training enables volun-
teers in performing their daily tasks and in communicating with social care
practitioners and clients or visitors. Moreover, volunteer coordinators
describe such training as a nonfinancial reward for volunteers. Volunteers
who appreciate the training they received mention the practical value it had
for carrying out their current volunteer tasks. Some also refer to their aim of
14 Administration & Society 00(0)
becoming a paid social care practitioner in the future and see receiving train-
ing as an important step in that direction.
Embedding and routinizing the work of volunteers. In addition to the simplified
version of occupational training, other simplified versions of HR policies
embed the work of volunteers in the organization:
[Name organization] finds volunteers extremely important. We see them as
unpaid employees. That is why our human resources policy for volunteers is a
derivative of the policy that applies to our paid workers. So, recruitment and
selection, satisfaction, reimbursement of expense, code of conduct, VOG
[certificate of conduct], turnover, guidance to a new position: Everything we
got for the paid workers, we also got for the unpaid ones. (Field notes,
stakeholder meeting social work organization)
Furthermore, the routinization of voluntary work becomes manifest in the
increased use of “proto-contracts” that allow for a more formalized position
of volunteers within the organization. An illustration of a proto-contract is a
“volunteer agreement” that records when volunteers start, what their tasks
entail, and on which location they will work. Moreover, volunteer agree-
ments encompass an “acquaintance period,” in which both the volunteer and
the involved care practitioner can break the agreement with immediate effect.
At the end of the acquaintance period, both parties discuss mutual experi-
ences and can either continue or end the agreement in consultation with the
volunteer coordinator. Although the agreement resembles a formal contract,
it is “not a labor contract in the sense of the Dutch Civil Law” and “not
employment in the sense of the Illness Benefit Act” (volunteer agreement,
long-term care organization). Hence, proto-contracts for volunteers enable
simplified forms of professionalism that bring along duties without the attain-
ment of a legally secured position.
Advanced Professionalization of Social Care Practitioners
Now that volunteers take over some of their tasks and responsibilities, social
care practitioners have to reinvent their own role. Although many practitio-
ners feel insecure about their position and refer to former colleagues who
already lost their jobs, they also see opportunities to resist de-professionaliza-
tion. Especially higher educated social care practitioners mention advantages
that volunteer responsibilization has for their own position and adopt a strat-
egy of “advanced professionalization.” These practitioners argue that their
occupation now requires even more professional skills than before. Compared
van Bochove and Oldenhof 15
with the professionalization strategies discussed earlier, this strategy is the
most informal, bottom-up and individual. So far, aiming for an advanced pro-
fessional status involves discursively defining the borders between “advanced
professionals” and lower skilled workers and volunteers.
Defining the “advanced” social care professional. With the presence of proto-
professional volunteers, social care practitioners can delegate certain routine
tasks, which gives them the opportunity to focus on more complex care,
coaching, or administrative tasks. According to a volunteer coordinator, ini-
tially, paid care workers are often afraid of replacement by unpaid workers,
but they gradually see the benefits for their own position:
They then start to think: “The more volunteers, the more time I have for
specialized care. If a volunteer plays a game or talks with clients, then I am
more confident to perform difficult tasks, or I have more time for bathing
clients.” They know that the other clients are in good hands with the volunteers.
(Volunteer coordinator, long-term care organization)
Care workers “advance” their professionalism in different directions. Nurses
in elderly care have more time to focus on medication safety and care practi-
tioners in day care activity centers can focus on administrative tasks. As one
of the latter says, “Like now, with this beauty salon day [carried out by vol-
unteers], I can perfectly sit in a corner and prepare the agenda, or write a
report.” In neighborhood centers and children’s playgrounds, responsibiliza-
tion of volunteers allows for the development of a coaching role for social
workers. Being a coach in a diverse network of stakeholders asks for new
skills to motivate, activate, and provide on-the-job training for volunteers,
rather than to organize events. For these social workers, being responsible for
steering volunteers in neighborhood centers or playgrounds is something that
contributes to an advanced professional identity. A social worker says that
while some of her colleagues preferred the situation as it was (when paid
workers could still organize activities themselves), she actually thinks this
new way of working has made her job more challenging and interesting.
What I like about it is that you have to be creative. I honestly find it interesting
to take up that challenge with all these people [volunteers]. . . . They [the
organization] expect more from you. . . It requires more strategy. You have to
think: “How will I get there?” Then you turn to the network. You have to think
it through. Before, I spent my time on activities and keeping the atmosphere
nice, and that’s still part of what I do, but now I have to arrange much more.
(Social worker, playground)
16 Administration & Society 00(0)
The definition of the “advanced social care professional” is not as clear-cut as
the “classic professional volunteer coordinator” or the “proto-professional
volunteer.” It requires continuous discursive effort of social care practitioners
to convince others and themselves that the increase of volunteer responsibili-
ties does not mean their own occupations are de-professionalized. Advanced
professionalization can be aided by education and training, although this is
mostly shaped in an ad hoc and temporary fashion. Consequently, routiniza-
tion currently is diffuse at best.
Relational Dynamics Within and Between
Professionalization Strategies
Legitimacy of the three professionalization strategies is fragile and under
continuous construction. Tensions exist both within groups of actors that are
the subject of a particular strategy and between different professionalization
strategies. If subjects of professionalization perceive the strategy as adopted
“from above” rather than “from within” (Evetts, 2003), they tend to resist it.
Such internal resistance not only affects separate strategies but also the rela-
tions between groups and strategies. Below, we show how the different strat-
egies are intertwined and interdependent.
Internal Resistance of Those Who Have Something to Lose
The groups of volunteer coordinators, volunteers, and social care practitio-
ners do not unanimously agree that the professionalization strategy they are
subject to is beneficial for their personal position. In the discussion of the
institutional work that the strategies involve, we paid attention to the effort
that individual and collective actors put in pursuing a specific type of profes-
sionalization strategy. Here, we focus on those who are afraid that they will
become victims of its success.
Resistance of volunteer coordinators to their classic professionalization. Although
the need for professionalization is widely shared, not all volunteer coordina-
tors agree with the “classic” way in which this is currently done. Some vol-
unteer coordinators criticize the formalization of their occupational profile,
as they oppose the disciplinary effects this has. There is a tension between
“formal, senior level institutional entrepreneurship” and “informal, street-
level institutional work” (McCann et al., 2013, p. 772). On one hand, AGORA
and other collectives of volunteer coordinators try to standardize the tasks
and work codes of the profession, making it more similar within and across
van Bochove and Oldenhof 17
organizations, while on the other hand, various individual volunteer coordi-
nators see it as the core of their profession to remain autonomous and to make
their own judgments.
Resistance of volunteers to their proto-professionalization. Of the three discussed
strategies, the proto-professionalization of volunteers occurs in the most top-
down way. Even though some volunteers embrace it—for instance, because
they would like to become a paid professional one day—not all volunteers
want to be “professionalized” and resist being defined, and particularly being
educated, as such. Some volunteers refuse to attend training sessions or indi-
cate that they do not desire training:
Oh no, I don’t need that. No, because here, I can totally be myself. That is what
I find important. And they [the clients] like that as well, I think: That they just
see that you are being you. So no training please. (Volunteer, day-care activity
center)
Like many other volunteers, this respondent draws a clear distinction between
volunteers and paid professionals: The value of volunteers lies in the fact that
they are not professionals.
According to various volunteer coordinators and social care practitioners,
it is not so much that volunteers do not want to follow courses; they just do
not have the capacities to become proto-professionalized. For instance, they
refer to people who have limited reading and writing skills and/or have mild
intellectual disabilities. Despite these objections, we note that requirements
for volunteers become stricter across organizations, including mandatory
courses, even if this means that “people will drop out,” as a volunteer coordi-
nator put it.
Resistance of social care practitioners to their advanced professionalization. Social
care practitioners who claim their profession was upgraded instead of
degraded seem optimistic about the future: Their work has become more
complex, and therefore, the risk of becoming redundant is reduced. However,
not all social care practitioners share this optimism. Some of them find it hard
to accept that their occupation has changed and that volunteers have taken
over tasks that they used to enjoy. This is particularly the case among practi-
tioners who were earlier responsible for organizing activities, and who are
now mainly involved in guiding volunteers to take over, such as social work-
ers and activity coordinators. An activity coordinator in a day care activity
center saw her occupation change over the years and regrets that volunteers
18 Administration & Society 00(0)
took over some client-centered parts of her work, while she has to do the sup-
posedly more “difficult” administrative tasks. She says,
When they [volunteers] would really take over all group activities, I would be
devastated. I do not only want to write care plans. I chose this job to interact
with clients, not to sit in my office all day.
Instead of advanced professionalization, some practitioners experience the
new distribution of tasks and responsibilities as the “hollowing out” of their
occupation (cf. Baines & Cunningham, 2015; Milward & Provan, 2000).
Having to hand over certain tasks and responsibilities to volunteers is one
thing; losing one’s paid job because volunteers completely take over is
another. Various social care practitioners—particularly those with lower edu-
cation levels—fear that proto-professional volunteers will eventually replace
them. A practitioner in a day care activity center says,
When more is expected from volunteers, they will first have to be educated in
how to deal with clients. . . . You will have to hire trained volunteers. But then,
we [paid workers] will be sent home, that’s what I think.
In sum, our findings show that actors who fear that they will lose an appreci-
ated part of their (paid or unpaid) job and who perceive professionalization as
“from above” rather than “from within” resist the strategy they are subjected
to. Volunteer coordinators fear to lose their autonomy, volunteers their dis-
tinct volunteer identity, and social care practitioners their interaction with
clients, or their jobs altogether. In the next section, we discuss what this inter-
nal resistance means for the dynamics between the strategies and how the
strategies depend on their mutual success.
Interdependencies Between the Strategies
We observed three ways in which different types of actors influence one
another’s strategies.
Disregarded volunteer coordinators. We found cases in which social care prac-
titioners disregard or reject the professional expertise of volunteer coordina-
tors. Some social care practitioners decide to hire volunteers themselves and
by-pass the volunteer coordinator entirely:
Sometimes it turns out that a location for instance has four more volunteers, of
whom I think “never heard of,” and they have worked there for half a year. . . .
van Bochove and Oldenhof 19
Then I want to meet them, I want to know more about them, and they need to
get a contract, otherwise they won’t be insured or reimbursed. (Volunteer
coordinator, long-term care organization)
This shows that the “professional volunteer coordinator” is not (yet) taken for
granted by all social care practitioners, of whom some engage in workaround
behavior. This not only challenges the professional status of volunteer coor-
dinators (who claim to have distinct expertise in selecting suitable volun-
teers) but also the proto-professional status of volunteers, who are not
registered, do not receive training, and do not get a “contract” as long as the
volunteer coordinator does not know about their existence.
The continued presence of “unprofessional” volunteers. We also found cases in
which volunteer coordinators do not succeed in selecting (potentially) proto-
professional volunteers, leading to discontent among social care practitioners
who seek to advance their professional status by delegating certain tasks to
volunteers. Despite the dominant call for professional-like quality, many vol-
unteer coordinators find it difficult to refuse or “fire” a volunteer when he or
she proves “unprofessional”:
We have a voluntary treasurer, who doesn’t have the capacities for that type of
work. She is not able to do it by herself. . . . It really is a mess right now. She
was not there this morning because she felt ill. Her father came in and told me:
“The work is so important for her, she likes it so much; she feels she makes a
difference.” Then it is really difficult to tell him that you actually do not want
to work with her anymore. (Volunteer coordinator, day care activity center)
Volunteers who are more like “clients” than “professionals” are often seen as
a burden (cf. Verhoeven & van Bochove, 2018). When volunteer coordina-
tors do not succeed in selecting (potentially) proto-professional volunteers,
social care practitioners question their image of specialists on successful vol-
unteer placement—and with that, their status as professionals.
Social care practitioners who refuse to delegate. We already mentioned that some
social care practitioners reject the ideal of advanced professionalization and
prefer to keep their job largely as it is, including regular client contact and
social activities. This not only affects the advanced professionalization strat-
egy other social care practitioners pursue but also the proto-professionaliza-
tion of volunteers and the attitudes and practices of volunteer coordinators.
Some volunteers feel that social care practitioners do not completely trust
them. A volunteer who works at the information desk in a neighborhood
20 Administration & Society 00(0)
center, for instance, recalled a situation in which a paid practitioner suddenly
took over when she was helping a visitor. Afterward, she said to the practitio-
ner, “I want to handle it myself. If I have any questions, I will ask you, but
otherwise, I think I should get the space to solve problems myself.” In other
locations, it is not so much the problem that volunteers are not recognized as
proto-professionals, but rather that their presence is disregarded altogether.
Some locations are just not interested in working with volunteers, or when
they are, the care practitioners do not provide them with any guidance and
sometimes even neglect them entirely. In response, coordinators no longer
send volunteers to such hostile or indifferent locations.
In this section, we have shown that the professionalization strategies are
contested and interdependent. Particularly when they are perceived as
adopted “from above,” they meet with resistance, such as in the case of proto-
professionalization of volunteers. To what extent the strategies are successful
not only depends on such internal struggles but also on the success of the
other strategies: If volunteer coordinators fail to proto-professionalize volun-
teers, the professional status of volunteer coordinators themselves is ques-
tioned, and social care practitioners—who will not be able to delegate a
variety of tasks to volunteers—cannot claim “advanced” professional status.
Conclusion and Discussion
Based on a large-scale qualitative research in multiple organizations in care
and social work, we found three main professionalization strategies: “classic”
professionalization of volunteer coordinators, “proto-professionalization” of
volunteers, and “advanced” professionalization of social care practitioners.
These strategies demonstrate that changing welfare policies do not necessar-
ily lead to de-professionalization on a grand scale as is often claimed by crit-
ics. Rather, the use of trained volunteers as “proto-professionals” coincides
with the professionalization of other actors. Because of the presence of vol-
unteers, social care practitioners have more time to carry out complex care,
coaching, or administrative tasks. The development of specialized and orga-
nizational roles thus allows social care practitioners to reposition and legiti-
mize their existence in a changing organizational field. In the relationship
between volunteers and practitioners, paid volunteer coordinators are key
actors who mediate between supply and demand of volunteers. By imitating
“classic” professionalization strategies (e.g., the development of formalized
job requirements, codes, and educational credentials), volunteer coordinators
acquire a distinct position in the organization.
Our results show how established and new actors in social care respond to,
but also actively create, changes in their organizational field. Our study has
van Bochove and Oldenhof 21
three specific contributions to existing literature. First, our research adds to
institutional theory and the sociology of professions by focusing on the
underresearched role of nonelite actors in conducting institutional work
(Coule & Patmore, 2013; Lawrence et al., 2011). Other than elite profession-
als such as managers or doctors, the groups studied in this research are the
unlikely suspects in bringing about institutional change. Although changing
welfare policies affect the practices of social care practitioners, volunteers,
and volunteer coordinators, we found that these actors themselves actively
pursue (or resist) particular professionalization strategies. They use various
types of institutional work—defining new roles, educating actors to fulfill
these roles, and embedding them in daily practices—with the aim of profes-
sionalizing themselves and/or others.
Second, our findings demonstrate the relational dynamics of professional-
ization strategies and institutional work. These nonelite actors are embedded
professionals: They “work in-between various groups and actors that make
up the organization and its environment” (Noordegraaf et al., 2014, p. 24).
We found that there are ambiguities within and dependencies between their
strategies and that the pace and direction of change depend on the accumula-
tion of the efforts of the actors involved. With this, our study responded to the
call for a focus on “distributed agency” to show how “the accumulation of . .
. contributions leads to a path of institutional change or stability” (Lawrence
et al., 2011, pp. 55-56). Local embeddedness and distributed agency make it
problematic to draw general conclusions about processes of re-/de- or proto-
professionalization in social care. Our findings suggest that professionaliza-
tion is not a zero-sum game, that is, more professionalization of the one does
not necessarily lead to less professionalization of the other. Both within and
between groups of actors, different qualitative understandings of profession-
alization coincide. Some actors strive for professionalization “from above,”
others “from within,” and again others do not want to be professionalized at
all. A focus on these qualitative aspects of professionalization, rather than
quantitative issues such as “who gains most,” allowed us to identify the inter-
connections between the different strategies and the changes that seemingly
low-power groups can bring about.
Our third contribution goes one step further by demonstrating the outcomes
of institutional work (a) within social care organizations and (b) in the field of
public service provision at large (i.e., field-level change). Although we agree
with Lawrence et al. (2011) that an institutional work perspective as adopted
in this study is more focused on practices and processes than on outcomes, an
important question remains: What does this all mean for how social care is
organized in a changing welfare state? We argue that the practices and pro-
cesses we have described have real consequences, albeit ambiguous ones.
22 Administration & Society 00(0)
Within organizations, institutional work leads to intra-group stratifica-
tion, that is, status differences within social groups. For instance, within the
group of volunteers, there are emerging differences between “winners” and
“losers.” “Winning” volunteers seem to embrace professionalization strate-
gies, thereby advancing their position within public service organizations,
whereas “losing” volunteers are often unable to meet professional require-
ments because of limited capacities, and risk exclusion from doing meaning-
ful volunteer work (cf. Verhoeven & van Bochove, 2018). Similarly, social
workers who are capable to perform their new role of coaching volunteers
and arranging networks of active citizens, and who perceive this as a step
forward, gain from the organizational changes, while those who are not able
to specialize or who experience the changes as the “hollowing out” of their
occupation lose out.
With regard to field-level change, we see emerging forms of inter-
organizational stratification, that is, status differences between public
service organizations. When public service organizations are successful
in using the relational synergy between different professionalization strat-
egies, they are labeled as frontrunners that positively contribute to the
transition from welfare state to enabling state. Oppositely, public service
organizations that struggle with combining professionalization strategies
in productive ways and view professionalization as a win/lose game are
viewed as lagging behind. Consequently, the organizational field of pub-
lic service organizations becomes increasingly diversified, not only in
terms of the actors involved but also in terms of the outcomes of institu-
tional work across organizations.
A final question that deserves our attention is “What do success and failure
of interrelated professionalization strategies mean for the quality of public
service provision?” Based on our findings, we expect that both organizations
labeled as “laggards” and “frontrunners” are likely to face problems in meet-
ing their mission of providing high-quality social care services. Lagging
organizations have to deal with the fact that austerity measures on social care
have already been taken and lower-educated workers have lost their jobs
(Van Bochove et al., 2018). Without volunteers filling those gaps, the work-
load of paid workers increases and certain services are no longer provided.
Front-running organizations at first glance seem more capable of preserving
service quality. In these organizations, professionalized volunteers take over
certain tasks so that valuable services are still provided and paid workers are
not overloaded. However, this “outsourcing” of services to unpaid workers can
have several adverse implications as well, which resemble the consequences of
the “hollowing out” of state functions that are addressed in public administra-
tion literature (e.g., Milward & Provan, 2000; Terry, 2005). According to
van Bochove and Oldenhof 23
Milward and Provan (2000), in governing the “hollow state,” positive out-
comes for clients are more likely when responsibility is clear; available
resources are consistent with the difficulty of provided tasks; and the network
of actors involved is generally stable. The findings of our study suggest that in
“hollow social care organizations”—that is, organizations that have handed
over lower level work to volunteers—these conditions are not always met.
In many social care organizations, the responsibilities of volunteers are
ambiguous. On the one hand, they are treated as unpaid employees, including
“proto-contracts,” but on the other hand, they cannot be held accountable in
the same manner as paid staff. Furthermore, a lack of resources is often one
of the reasons for volunteer responsibilization. This is unfortunate, as volun-
tary work should not be considered as a cheap replacement of paid work.
Working with volunteers requires structural—material and immaterial—
investments. Finally, social care organizations are not quite characterized by
stability: Alongside the shift toward more volunteer responsibilities, tradi-
tional paid jobs have disappeared and new ones have arisen. The actors
involved need time to adjust to their new roles, but time is a scarce resource
in front-running organizations. Further research is needed to find out how
these and other conditions shape the quality of services in hollowed-out
social care organizations.
We conclude with a recommendation for practice. Nowadays, doing more
with volunteers has become a mantra (Eliasoph, 2011), but volunteer policies
should be part of an integrated coherent vision of what organizations want to
offer and why. Organizations should consider professionalization of volun-
teers in close relation to (de-)professionalization of other occupational
domains. Moreover, they should consider carefully whether professionaliza-
tion of volunteers is always desirable. In the case of a highly educated volun-
teer population, this may be a fruitful strategy. However, in the daily reality
of public service organizations, many volunteers are vulnerable and risk
being overburdened with “professional” responsibilities.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the journal editor
for their constructive comments and suggestions. In addition, the authors thank the
members of the Health Care Governance department of ESHPM (with special thanks
to Hester van de Bovenkamp) and participants of the EGPA Annual Conference 2016
and the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
24 Administration & Society 00(0)
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was supported by grants from
the knowledge institute for cities Platform31; the University of Amsterdam; the
Active Citizenship Foundation (Stichting Actief Burgerschap); the municipalities of
Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Zaanstad; the Ministry of the Interior and
Kingdom Relations; the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; housing corporations
Eigen Haard and Ymere; and care organization Cordaan. Together, these partners
formed the “Can’t We Leave That to the Volunteers?” Research Consortium.
ORCID iD
Marianne van Bochove https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8476-5964
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Van Bochove, M., Tonkens, E., Verplanke, L., & Roggeveen, S. (2018). Reconstructing
the professional domain: Boundary work of professionals and volunteers in the
context of social service reform. Current Sociology, 66, 392-411.
Verhoeven, I., & van Bochove, M. (2018, 5th April). Moving away, toward, and
against: How front-line workers cope with substitution by volunteers in Dutch
care and welfare services. Journal of Social Policy. Advance online publication.
doi:10.1017/S0047279418000119
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wagon, better to study where it is going? International Studies of Management &
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van Bochove and Oldenhof 27
Author Biographies
Marianne van Bochove is assistant professor of Health Care Governance at Erasmus
School of Health Policy & Management at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the
Netherlands. Her research and teaching interests and experience include health care
policy reform, (de-)professionalization, migrant care work, and urban citizenship.
Across these fields, she is particularly interested in how boundaries between different
groups are constructed and how identities are formed and changed.
Lieke Oldenhof is assistant professor of Health Care Governance at Erasmus School
of Health Policy & Management at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the
Netherlands. Her research interests include the mundane activities of managers and
professionals in the public sector, the role of language, and discursive practices. She
uses qualitative methods, including shadowing and in-depth interviews.
... Saks, 2015b;Saks, 2020) and voluntary work and professional-volunteer relationships (e.g. van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2020;Verhoeven & van Bochove, 2018). We also undertook a selective literature review of theoretically-based empirical studies known to us through referencing healthcare, based on their rigour and relevance to our research aims (for similar approaches, see Hallett & Barber, 2014;Nixon & Crewe, 2004). ...
... King et al., 2019), not least in relation to supporting healthcare personnel (Nancarrow 2020). The impact on volunteers is accentuated by the categorisation by Turner (1995) in which medicine dominates modern healthcare, reinforced by allied and other health professions, labelled subordinate professions. They complement limited professions including occupations with legally protected territory linked to particular body parts or therapeutic methods-like dentistry, optometry, pharmacy and podiatry. ...
... However, professionals argued that such volunteers were "taking more than they can bring"-as they cost them time instead of lightening their workload-and they therefore preferred more "vigorous" volunteers (Verhoeven & van Bochove, 2018) with motives such as using voluntary work to acquire skills for future paid employment (Verplanke, 2014). Some volunteers were trained during voluntary work and became more professionalised, or were already professionals in the same or another field of work using their skills in volunteer roles (van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2020). Hoad (2002) in England and Handy, Mook and Quarter (2008) in Canada noted that, in some organisations, this can occur coterminously. ...
Article
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In sociological research on relationships between professionals and volunteers, professionals are often contrasted with volunteers as abstracted, distinct and homogeneous groups. Focusing on healthcare in selected modern societies, and adopting a neo-Weberian and complementary boundary work perspective, this essay argues the landscape is more complex than between paid groups with exclusionary social closure and the unwaged in the market. First, diversification exists within health professions themselves based on social closure, with hierarchies and differential scopes of practice. Second, unpaid volunteers vary in responsibility depending on factors like employment sector and social background, including qualifications and experience. Third, in the paid workforce, there are interstitial non-professionalised health occupations, such as the neglected, lower educated health support workers, forming the largest, most heterogeneous healthcare labour force. Drawing on studies of healthcare, it is argued that recognising the diversification and interplay between professionals, volunteers and support workers is vital for enhancing health policy.
... Saks, 2015b;Saks, 2020) and voluntary work and professional-volunteer relationships (e.g. van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2020;Verhoeven & van Bochove, 2018). We also undertook a selective literature review of theoretically-based empirical studies known to us through referencing healthcare, based on their rigour and relevance to our research aims (for similar approaches, see Hallett & Barber, 2014;Nixon & Crewe, 2004). ...
... King et al., 2019), not least in relation to supporting healthcare personnel (Nancarrow 2020). The impact on volunteers is accentuated by the categorisation by Turner (1995) in which medicine dominates modern healthcare, reinforced by allied and other health professions, labelled subordinate professions. They complement limited professions including occupations with legally protected territory linked to particular body parts or therapeutic methods-like dentistry, optometry, pharmacy and podiatry. ...
... However, professionals argued that such volunteers were "taking more than they can bring"-as they cost them time instead of lightening their workload-and they therefore preferred more "vigorous" volunteers (Verhoeven & van Bochove, 2018) with motives such as using voluntary work to acquire skills for future paid employment (Verplanke, 2014). Some volunteers were trained during voluntary work and became more professionalised, or were already professionals in the same or another field of work using their skills in volunteer roles (van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2020). Hoad (2002) in England and Handy, Mook and Quarter (2008) in Canada noted that, in some organisations, this can occur coterminously. ...
... As a result, project management is becoming a more popular method of management. Professionalization of social work, according to literature [15], is a process in which social work activities based on meeting the specific needs of human beings are recognized by society as a specialized professional field and receive professional development. According to literature [16], social work's professionalization is inextricably linked to its economic and social transformation. ...
Article
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Big data and mobile edge computing information technology have revolutionized traditional industries’ development. The organic integration of community social work and big data technology will undoubtedly promote the growth of community social work services, thanks to the new information technology platform for big data. In terms of the future of big data-driven social work, it is primarily reflected in the following: in the application of social work, big data can acquire and update real human behavior data in real time, and eliminating the need for subjects’ subjective reports in the data collection process; It can also provide a basis for public decision-making, which is worthy of our active exploration and innovation, provide efficient and accurate technical means for risk population assessment and crisis intervention and have a more accurate and intuitive grasp of the temporal and spatial distribution of service personnel and basic social service facilities. The core of professionalization of social work is improving the post-setting system for social workers in our country, improving their treatment, and strengthening the construction of professional ethics for social workers in our country. A big data social workflow adaptive scheduling optimization algorithm based on the chaotic cloud diversion mechanism is proposed to address the problems of high costs, poor time convergence performance, and poor cost accounting quality in the current social workflow adaptive scheduling optimization algorithm. As an important part of social governance, social work accelerates the process of social work specialization to improve decision-making efficiency.
... Kenmerkend voor institutioneel werk is verder dat het enige mate van intentionaliteit veronderstelt en ervan uitgaat dat actoren in continue wisselwerking staan met hun (institutionele) omgeving (Lawrence e.a., 2011). Diverse auteurs hebben vormen van creërend, behoudend en verstorend institutioneel werk onderscheiden (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006; Currie e.a., 2012; Van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2020). Bij verstoring gaat het dan bijvoorbeeld om 'distantiëren' (de morele basis van bestaande praktijken ter discussie stellen) en 'ondermijnen' (bestaande assumpties ondermijnen en daarmee de angst voor verandering verminderen). ...
... The second theme of the contributions revolves around actors and agency. Partly, we attribute this to how researchers define actors in relation to other actors, such as "nonelite" actors (Kulkarni, 2018;van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2018). The choice to focus on elites intentionally or from necessity impacts actor types. ...
Thesis
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Institutions permeate all aspects of society and organizational life. While much research has examined established institutions, less is known about how protoinstitutions - potential institutions not yet entrenched - are formed. Institutional work, which explains how social actors try to influence institutions, offers one possible theoretical lens. I systematically reviewed the existing literature from a semantic and thematic perspective. Entering the field, data was gathered over a year-long ethnography of an interorganisational proto-institutional place in the video game industry. The methods used included over 800 hours of participant observation, 58 formal and informal interviews, and artefact analysis. I examined the institutional work by creative actors within the different spaces. Diving deeper into one space, I focused on the accelerator. Working from multidimensional scales, I show how developers utilized different processes in the making of video game prototypes in order to satisfy the institutional demands of the accelerator. The thesis comprises seven main chapters and two articles in the appendix. Chapter one introduces the idea of institutions and creativity as in opposition. Institutional work and the UK digital games industry are introduced. Chapter two lays out the ethnographic methodology and provides a day in the life vignette. Chapter three is a systematic literature review of institutional work and a resulting framework. Chapter four explores the spaces of a place and how institutional work shapes a creative proto-institutional place. Chapter five unpacking the micro-processes within a business and technological accelerator across multidimensional scales. Chapter six discusses the thesis contributions in the context of two frameworks. Chapter seven concludes the thesis by reflecting on the research and PhD process. Appendix A presents an alternative method to study institutions. Appendix B considers the impact of participation in an accelerator over various spatial-temporal scales. https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.826564
... In contrast, Riaz et al. (2011, p. 196) describe a 'mixed bag' of institutional positions taken by elite actors during the 2007-2010 financial crisis. Partly, we attribute this to how researchers define actors in relation to other actors, such as 'nonelite' actors (Kulkarni, 2018;van Bochove & Oldenhof, 2018). The choice to focus on elites intentionally or from necessity impacts actor types. ...
Article
Full-text available
Institutional work as a concept has evolved and diffused beyond roots in management and organizational studies since it was first defined by Lawrence and Suddaby (2006). A diverse literature and recent criticism call for an extensive review of the field. We conducted a systematic review of 452 peer-reviewed articles in 185 different journals published from March 2006 to December 2019. Semantic analysis revealed changes in topics over time, the rise of institutional maintenance, and a focus on individuals and agency. Using thematic analysis, we inductively categorized the claimed contributions to institutional work as theory combining, actors, contexts, institutional work types, representations, and methodology. The findings led us to develop an integrative conceptual framework for future institutional work study built around setting, motivations, types, and outcomes. We visualized the discourse around institutional work, growth of key themes from early theorizing, and an original process model. --- https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/publications/institutional-work-a-review-and-framework-based-on-semantic-and-t
... This article uses the concept of institutional work to consider both stability and change. This concept can help analyze how regulatory actors not only respond passively to external challenges but also actively engage in three types of institutional work: the creation, maintenance, and disruption of institutions [5,9]. Creation work involves establishing rules and constructing rewards and sanctions that enforce these rules. ...
Article
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Background National regulatory regimes for supervising ongoing clinical trials are affected by external challenges, both international, such as harmonization of EU legislation, and national, such as critical reviews of incidents. This study examines how supervisory bodies dealing with ongoing trials respond to external challenges of the past two decades and engage in institutional work to maintain, repair, or improve the Dutch regulatory regime. Methods International and national regulatory documents were analyzed and interviews (n = 27) were conducted with various actors, including public supervisory bodies, hospital staff, and boards of directors. Findings In the Netherlands, EU harmonization directed at centralizing and coordinating the regulatory regime for good clinical trial practice in Member States has paradoxically led to further fragmentation. The resulting ambiguity and inefficiency remained largely unresolved until a serious incident in a university hospital became a catalyst to clarify both the interconnected responsibilities and working relationships of various supervisory bodies. New legislation and regulatory methods were implemented, and actors outside the legislative framework became active in the field in order to strengthen supervision of ongoing trials, further multiplying yet also aligning with existing regulatory regimes. Conclusions Public supervision of ongoing trials is fragmented in the Netherlands because the responsibilities and resources are unevenly distributed. In countries like the Netherlands, public supervisory bodies must do a great deal of institutional work to align with new EU regulations and still safeguard their traditional regulatory mechanisms that protect human safety. However, national regulatory traditions also offer new opportunities to strengthen the quality assurance of clinical trials.
... [25][26][27] This relationship unfolds through such strategies as building a body of specialized knowledge and education programs, building associations, and establishing codes to standardize technical expertise and work ethic, employed by a group of people aspiring to establish or strengthen their professional status. [28][29][30] However, in the case of healthy trial participants this relationship is rather informal, as specialized knowledge, skills, and work ethic are developed and used in the process of trial conduct. The expertise of experienced trial participants is recognized on the work floor only, where investigators appreciate their efficiency, self-organization, and patience in following burdensome procedures. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Previous social science research has shown how some healthy phase I trial participants identify themselves as workers and rely on trials as a major source of income. The term “professionalization” has been used to denote this phenomenon. Purpose We aim to examine a component of healthy trial participants’ professionalization that has not yet been systematically studied: how repeat phase I trial participants develop and claim expertise that distinguishes them from others and makes them uniquely positioned to perform high-quality clinical trial labor. We also aim to explain the significance of these research results for protection of healthy participants in phase I trials. Methods This qualitative exploratory study was conducted in Russia, in two phase I trial units. It involved semi-structured interviews with 28 healthy trial participants with varying lengths of experience in trials, observations of work done in trial units, and interpretive conversations with investigative staff. Results Interviewed healthy individuals who repeatedly participate in phase I trials describe developing knowledge and skills that involve appreciating the meaning of trial procedures, coming up with techniques to efficiently follow them, organizing themselves and others in the course of a trial, and sharing tacit ways of doing trial work well with other less experienced participants. Our results suggest that a prerequisite for such expertise-centered professionalization is the emergence of a positive identity linked to seeing value in trial participation work. A crucial component of professionalization thus understood is the development of a work ethic that entails caring about results and being reliable partners for investigators. Limitations The attitudes and behaviors presented in this article are not suggested to be universally shared among healthy trial participants, but rather represent a particular instance of professionalization that coexists with other views and tactics. Conclusions A way of better protecting healthy trial participants begins with recognizing their skills, knowledge, and the centrality of the contribution they are making to pharmaceutical research. Currently, the expertise of experienced trial participants is recognized on the work floor only; therefore, the professionalization we described is informal. Yet, the informal professionalization process is inherently risky as it does not involve any change in the formal conditions of trial participants’ work. Instituting formal measures for protecting healthy trial participants as skilled workers combined with recognition of their expertise is essential.
Article
Despite the “turn to values” in Public Administration, there is still a lack of empirical research in situ that investigates how various stakeholders in interaction develop strategies to deal with conflicting values over time. By using a new pragmatist approach, this article fills in this gap by investigating policy experiments in Dutch healthcare. The results show how professionals, citizens, and policymakers differently valued the worth of policy experiments, which manifested itself in multiple value conflicts. To deal with these conflicts, stakeholders adopted different strategies: colonization, compromising, prioritization, short-cutting, organizational enmeshing, and pilotification. The results show a shift from exclusive top-down strategies to inclusive multi-value strategies over time.
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A number of tensions pertaining to social problems and human suffering become apparent when analysing community work in a Danish welfare setting. As a source for critical reflection, we discern some of these challenges, but also potentials, which relate not only to a Danish context, but to challenges in any highly institutionalized welfare system. Three community work social enterprises serve to exemplify the objectives of addressing social problems by fostering participation and empowerment. To enhance and include the voice of service users, the programmes attempt to cultivate human resources as opposed to perceived formalism and a subsequent diminishment of the potentials of community inclusion. The formalistic governmental agendas are perceived to be unable to appreciate the diversity of service users’ individual needs and social challenges, which produces conflicting prospects. Such a dichotomy between formalistic welfare practices and the ideals represented in the three enterprises offers a podium for users, professionals, policymakers and researchers to consider alternative expressions of community work, and how these can address social problems. We maintain that rapidly changing welfare models require an increased sensitivity to human suffering as a position embedded in the habitus and sociological imagination of community work. It is a source for reflection on the role of welfare arenas perceived as spaces in which service users ideally, based on their own social situation, can improve their social circumstances. It is an invitation to reflect on the potentials of community work in a diversity of cultures and practices.
Article
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Shifts from professionals to volunteers are observed across national contexts and in various types of public services, particularly in long-term care and social work. This article examines how professionals and volunteers in the Netherlands perform boundary work to construct, maintain and dissolve boundaries between them in the context of social service reform. Two types of boundary work were found: demarcation work and welcoming work. Demarcation work relates to a situation where differences in knowledge, authority and reliability between professionals and volunteers are emphasised. Welcoming work involves the efforts of professionals to welcome specific volunteers to their professional domain. This study examines the implications of the second type of boundary work for structural characteristics of the social service sector. It concludes that although welcoming work can lead to deprofessionalisation, it can also promote the professionalisation of nurses and social workers.
Chapter
This chapter explores the meaning of place for healthcare governance. Although place is gaining importance in public health studies, it remains undertheorized as an analytical concept. As a consequence, place is merely viewed as a context variable or a neutral backdrop for policymaking. This chapter provides a more dynamic reconceptualization of place by looking at the activity of re-placing as a means to govern healthcare. Three different cases of re-placement of care are discussed that show how re-placements work out in practice: e-Health, concentration of hospital care and neighbourhood care. The cases reveal not only the invisible work that is necessary to establish and maintain re-placements, but also demonstrate the political and symbolic uses of place for healthcare governance.
Article
Welfare states increasingly activate citizens in the provision of care and welfare services, expecting them to take over certain parts of professional work. The consequences of this ‘volunteer responsibilisation’ for front-line workers’ professionalism have not been studied extensively. Professionalism may be pointed in another direction, from professional self-control or organisational forms of control based on management criteria toward forms of embedded control in which professional work is defined in interaction with all kinds of ‘outsiders’, including volunteers. In this paper we analyse how front-line workers cope with such shifts in care and welfare provision. We find that they move away from frail volunteers, move toward vigorous volunteers, and move against policy makers.
Article
This article examines the influence of cultural-institutional factors on user-provider relationships in public services. Using Grid-Group Cultural Theory (CT) as a way to structure the complexity of public service relationships, the article considers the extent to which public services are attuned to users' relational concerns. This analysis shows particular tensions between how users think the service 'should be' compared with how they think the service 'actually is'. Additional study evidence is used to assess these findings; in particular, the effects of different patterns of compatibility on both the perceived quality of public service relationships and the value added by this. Finally, relationships between 'good opportunities' for user voice and the above results are discussed. In response, opportunities for improvement are identified (within the institutional work done by public service organizations), and the implications for the relative value of CT analysis are discussed.
Article
We examine how professions responded to a potential change in jurisdictional boundaries by analyzing the written submissions of five professional associations in reaction to a government proposal to strengthen interprofessional collaboration, relating these responses to the professions’ field positions. We identify four foci for framing used by the professions to discursively develop their boundary claims: (1) framing the issue of interprofessional collaboration (issue framing), (2) framing of justifications for favored solutions (justifying), (3) framing the profession’s own identity (self-casting), and (4) framing other professions’ identities (altercasting). We find that professions employed these foci differently depending on two dimensions of their field positions – status and centrality. Our study contributes to the literature by identifying distinctive ways through which the foci for framing may be mobilized in situations of boundary contestation, and by theorizing how field position in terms of status and centrality influences actors’ framing strategies.
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Social scientists are invited to contemplate the possibility of abandoning the concepts of "profession" and "professionalism" as analytical resources for the study of occupations and occupational strategies. It might be more fruitful to treat the way the people in society generally, and spokespersons for occupational groupings in particular, use notions of profession and professionalism to achieve particular purposes. The language of professionalism is highly ambiguous, with its meaning constantly slipping from one emphasis to another. This alone makes it problematic as a source of concepts for the critical analysis of occupational activity. But it is made even more problematic by the fact that it is frequently deployed in the occupational world to serve sectional interests. It is unlikely that social scientists will abandon concepts of professionalism. But they would be wise to reflect on the analytical and critical implications of their using such a slippery and pejorative terminology.
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This article draws on recent developments in institutional theory to better understand the managerial efforts implicated in the implementation of government-led reforms in public sector services. Based on a longitudinal study of a massive reform effort aimed at transforming the province of Quebec’s publicly-funded healthcare system, the article applies the notion of institutional work to understand how managers responsible for newly formed healthcare organizations defined and carried out their individual missions while simultaneously clarifying and operationalizing the government’s reform mandate. We identify and describe the properties of four types of work implicated in this process and suggest that structural work, conceptual work, and operational work need to be underpinned by relational work to offer chances for successful policy reform. By showing the specific processes whereby top-down reform initiatives are taken up by managers and hybridized with existing institutionalized forms and practices, this article helps us better understand both the importance of managerial agency in enacting reform, and the dynamics that lead to policy slippage in complex reform contexts.
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How is a profession distinguished from a non-profession? In what ways is the boundary between profession and non-profession marked, transformed, and dealt with? And how is social work professionalized in these processes of boundary-setting and boundary transfor-mation? In the perspective of Social Work as Working at the Border I address professionaliza-tion, as well as professionalism as boundary-work, boundary-setting and boundary-crossing. This aspect of boundary transformation is discussed in terms of the theory of profession: how does the process of professionalization occur? What is the connection between professionalization, science, politics and the social question? With reference to these questions, a boundary-analytic perspective is outlined in order to review the emergence and development of social work as a profession, and professional ways of handling social inequalities: how is the boundary between profession and non-profession set, secured and transformed? How could this boundary be crossed in processes of professionalization? In the concluding remarks the issue of professionalization as a process will be reversed into the question of professionalism as a mode of practice. Social work will thus be related to a notion of critique, and conceived of as professional boundary-work in the context of social inequality.
Article
This introduction establishes the context for a series of articles exploring the outcomes for work, employment, worker orientation and service quality from the emerging context of austerity in public services in three countries - Canada, the UK and Australia. The paper outlines the development of outsourcing in care under new public management and identifies broad trends in work and employment pre-austerity. It reveals contracting-out and new public management-diminished public provision, radically altering the non-profit sector. The financial crisis is the latest in successive rounds of market-based reform that are deepening these tendencies. Despite some national variations, new public management led to the pay of the predominantly female front line workforce across the three countries failing to keep pace with public sector counterparts, as well as cuts in pensions, sick pay, and travel and subsistence allowances. Finally, it outlines how the accompanying papers explore new facets and themes in care work during austerity.