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

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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.
Translated title of the contributionFra teoretisk koncept til et organisatorisk redskab til udvikling af den offentlige sektor: Social kapital som Janus ansigt i en hospitalsafdeling
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Volume31
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)638-652
Number of pages15
ISSN0951-3558
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Fingerprint

social capital
public sector
nurse
hospital
methodology
science
management

Keywords

  • hospitals
  • field theory
  • social capital
  • ethnography
  • organizational change
  • consultancy

Cite this

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title = "From theoretical concept to organizational tool for public sector improvement: Janus-faced social capital in a hospital department",
abstract = "PurposeThe 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/approachA 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.FindingsSocial 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/valueThe 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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author = "Jette Ernst and Hindhede, {Anette Lykke} and Vibeke Andersen",
year = "2018",
doi = "10.1108/IJPSM-05-2017-0147",
language = "English",
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pages = "638--652",
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AU - Hindhede, Anette Lykke

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PY - 2018

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N2 - PurposeThe 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/approachA 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.FindingsSocial 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/valueThe 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.

AB - PurposeThe 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/approachA 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.FindingsSocial 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/valueThe 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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