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Exploring the tensions between organisational ethos and stakeholder demand: A case study of a community ‘arts and health’ social enterprise

SWAN, PETER,JOSEPH (2013) Exploring the tensions between organisational ethos and stakeholder demand: A case study of a community ‘arts and health’ social enterprise. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the tensions between the ethos and values of third sector organisations and the environment within which they operate. Many third sector organisations have an innovative, flexible, and person-centred way of working, which often results in them being better placed than the state to provide informal services in the field of health and social care. However, a drive towards greater efficiency has compelled organisations to adopt business principles, with the concept of the ‘social enterprise’ being promoted. Organisations are also increasingly subject to regulatory requirements, and are often required to provide compelling evidence that they tangibly benefit the communities that they serve. Critics have argued that this increased statutory influence has prevented third sector organisations from engaging with their communities in an innovative and effective manner.
Arts and health projects face particular challenges when responding to statutory pressures. Many projects focus on ‘softer’ outcomes such as improvements to self esteem and confidence, which can be at odds with the kind of evidence demanded by the state. In addition, third sector organisations, including the majority of social enterprises, are largely reliant upon statutory sources of income. They are therefore susceptible to ‘institutional isomorphism’, whereby their structures and procedures are influenced in the direction of dominant stakeholders. While the adoption of social enterprise activity can allow organisations to diversify their sources of income, thereby minimising the possibility of dependency on particular stakeholders, this can create tensions and challenges of its own. Organisations may focus on maximising their surplus, or earned income, to the detriment of their social goals.
Drawing on data obtained from an ethnographic case study of a small community-focussed ‘arts and health’ organisation that self-identified as a social enterprise, this thesis explores how the ethos of third sector organisations manifests itself through their day to day workings, discussing the mechanisms by which ethos can be threatened, prioritised, or altered. Important examples of organisational tension that emerged during the period of fieldwork were explored in depth.
This thesis utilises a number of concepts and theories, including Foucauldian governmentality, institutional theory, organisational legitimacy, and impression management, to explain the nature of the tensions organisations may face, why these tensions can threaten the third sector ethos, and the ways by which organisations can manage these tensions strategically. This research argues that rather than acquiesce to dominant institutional pressures, organisations often have the means to resist, rework, or negotiate any external demands, thereby maximising the opportunities available to them.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:social enterprise, arts and health, third sector, governmentality, institutional theory, organisational tensions, organisational ethos, innovation, negotiation, institutional isomorphism, agency, organisational ethnography, case study, organisational legitimacy, legitimacy theory, impression management
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 May 2014 10:39

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