From theoretical concept to organizational tool for public sector improvement: Janus-faced social capital in a hospital department.

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikel

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine, first, how social capital was crafted and transformed
from a theoretical concept to an organizational tool for public sector improvement that was adopted by a
Danish region and implemented in all regional hospitals. Second, the paper examines the application of social
capital in one of these hospitals and, further, in a department of the hospital with the purpose of showing how
it was applied by the managerial levels and responded to by the nurses of the department.
Design/methodology/approach – A Bourdieusian ethnographic approach was used for understanding
the local and subjective understandings of social capital as well as the wider context in which the new tool
was crafted.
Findings – Social capital as a tool for organizational improvement was constructed in a gray zone between
science and consultancy. The paper demonstrates that the application of social capital in practice is
connected with paradoxes because the concept is inherently ambiguous and Janus-faced in that its official
representation is “soft” and voluntary with a working environment focus yet, it envelopes concealed
steering intentions. These contrary working features of the concept produce a pressure on the department
management and the nurses.
Originality/value – The explanatory critical framework combined with the ethnographic approach is a
useful approach for theorizing and understanding social capital as an example of the emergence and
consequences of new managerial tools in public organizations.
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Detaljer

Bidragets oversatte titelFra teoretisk koncept til et organisatorisk redskab til udvikling af den offentlige sektor : Social kapital som Janus ansigt i en hospitalsafdeling
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine, first, how social capital was crafted and transformed
from a theoretical concept to an organizational tool for public sector improvement that was adopted by a
Danish region and implemented in all regional hospitals. Second, the paper examines the application of social
capital in one of these hospitals and, further, in a department of the hospital with the purpose of showing how
it was applied by the managerial levels and responded to by the nurses of the department.
Design/methodology/approach – A Bourdieusian ethnographic approach was used for understanding
the local and subjective understandings of social capital as well as the wider context in which the new tool
was crafted.
Findings – Social capital as a tool for organizational improvement was constructed in a gray zone between
science and consultancy. The paper demonstrates that the application of social capital in practice is
connected with paradoxes because the concept is inherently ambiguous and Janus-faced in that its official
representation is “soft” and voluntary with a working environment focus yet, it envelopes concealed
steering intentions. These contrary working features of the concept produce a pressure on the department
management and the nurses.
Originality/value – The explanatory critical framework combined with the ethnographic approach is a
useful approach for theorizing and understanding social capital as an example of the emergence and
consequences of new managerial tools in public organizations.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Volume/Bind31
Tidsskriftsnummer5
Sider (fra-til)638-692
ISSN0951-3558
StatusUdgivet - 2018
PublikationsartForskning
Peer reviewJa

    Forskningsområder

  • Consultancy, ethnography, field theory, hospitals, managerialism, organizational change, public sector, social capital.
ID: 273577684