Making sense of cost-consciousness in social work

Per Nikolaj Bukh, Karina Skovvang Christensen, Anne Kirstine Svanholt

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to explore how the introduction of new accounting information influences the understandings of cost-consciousness. Furthermore, the paper explores how managers use accounting information to shape organizational members’ understanding of changes, and how focusing on cost-consciousness influence professional culture within social services. Design/methodology/approach: The paper is based on a case study, drawing on sensemaking as a theoretical lens. Top management, middle management and staff specialists at a medium-sized Danish municipality are interviewed. Findings: The paper demonstrates how accounting metaphors can be effective in linking cost information and cost-consciousness to operational decisions in daily work practices. Further, the study elucidates how professionalism may be strengthened based on the use of accounting information. Research limitations/implications: The study is context specific, and the role of accounting in professional work varies on the basis of the specific techniques involved. Practical implications: The paper shows how managers influence how professionals interpret and use accounting information. It shows how cost-consciousness can be integrated with social work practices to improve service quality. Originality/value: The paper contributes to the literature on how accounting information influences social work. To date, only a few papers have focused on how cost-consciousness can be understood in practice and how it influences professional culture. Further, the study expands the limited accounting metaphor research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Accounting & Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)102-126
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Budgeting
  • Cost-consciousness
  • Management accounting
  • Metaphors
  • Public sector
  • Sensemaking
  • Social services
  • Welfare
  • Social investments
  • Inequality


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