Isomorphism in the work programme, james rees, tsrc seminar 19 june 2013
Hostedby:Fundedby:All in it together? Exploring ‘isomorphic’pressures that drive convergence in approachand deliveryTSRC Seminar 19 June 2013James Rees, with Rebecca Taylor andChris Damm
Context• Outsourcing / contracting out• Public service reform• Welfare to work• Role of third sector in ‘Big Society’Seeking to understand this…Quasi-marketsNetwork governanceThird party governmentNew institutionalism
The Work Programme• Single programme for all jobseekers• Black Box and payment by results with a back-endedprofile to reward ‘job outcome’ sustainment• Differential payments by customer group• Supply chain subcontracting divided into Tier 1 (endto end provision) and Tier 2 (specialist)• DEL-AME funding, part funded by savings frombenefits budget• Designed move from specialist programme(s) tosingle generic programme.
Prime ContractorEnd to endproviders(tier 1)Specialist provider(tier 2)call-off contractsDelivery / JobOutcomesReferralsfrom JCPDirect (inhouse)DeliveryEnd to endproviders(tier 1)18 contract package areas (CPAs)covering the UK with 2-3 primes ineach area = 40 prime contract
Our research• 1. What is the role of the third sector in the WorkProgramme?• 3. How have (all sector) subcontractors experiencedthe Work Programme?
Theory building• So we set out to ask, ‘what is distinctive aboutthe third sector’s role’? (expecting difference)• Implicit assumptions aboutdifference/distinctiveness:– Unique approaches– Ethos/attitudes/‘mission’– Management practices• Instead we found a variety of evidencepointing towards similarity and the existenceof an area or ‘field’ public policy
Organizational fields• The field in question is ‘welfare to work’– Synonyms: sector, sub-sector, field, industry,market• Intermediary organisations shaping field• Brings into play large literatures onorganizational fields
Theoretical traditions• New institutionalism– Di Maggio and Powell (1983) argue that homogenization of organizational formsemerge out of the structuration of organizational fields (defined as those organizationsthat, in the aggregate, constitute a recognized area of institutional life). Specifically, theyargue that highly structured organizational fields provide a context in which the effortsof specific organizations to deal rationally with uncertainty and constraint often lead,across the field, to similar structures, cultures, and outputs. (Bovaird and Downe, 2006)– (key text: DiMaggio and Powell, 1983, henceforth D&P)• Bourdieu, Field Theory– Good on culture and power but less so on mechanisms?• Fligstein and McAdam (2011)– Theory of strategic action fields– Nested fields, goes wider than D&P and can help explainoperationalisation of sector– Massive potential
Claims about the field• “It’s not about about sector it’s about size” – ERSA,various policy messages• Sector respondent:Q: what do you think the unique role and contribution of the third sector is in general within theemployment services field?R: There isn’t one. *!!+• Rees et al., our message:– Sector not reliable guide to experience in work programme– Crucially about place in the model, in other words how thefield is structured• Which is precisely what D&P claim:– That institutional isomorphism is driven by pressures fromthe state and professions
Some intermediate implications• Questions the basis of sectordistinctions/boundaries• Isomorphism usually viewed as normatively, abad thing (Milbourne 2009, Macmillan, 2010)– (third) sector becoming more like others– Typically more like bureaucratic public sector– But D&P suggests: would expect this incontracting environment• aa
Isomorphic Pressures(DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Bovaird and Downe, 2006, Mizruchi )1 There is a trend to organisational isomorphism:• Competitive isomorphism (but, quasi-market)• Institutional isomorphism– Coercive– Mimetic– Normative2 There are deviations and resistance to organizationalisomorphism:• Differences in local external environment (e.g. allowing an organisation toresist resource dependencies; i.e. having reserves?)• Organizational resistance to institutional pressures towards isomorphism(e.g. ‘mission’)
CoerciveFinancial model- Convergence to standardised models/generic provision:if we wanted to stay in the market, we had to offer an end-to-end servicerather than just on a call off basis, which is where a lot of Third Sectororganisations end up, as a Tier Two supplier, on a call off basis [TS sub]Regardless of what the government are saying… they haven’t funded itproperly to be able to get a good service. [Private sub]Prime management practices– Performance management systems– League tables / Perform or be sackedThat black box is a matchbox, by the way, you know, in terms of “Do it howyou want to do it, how you feel it should be done,” it’s just notbeing...[realised]…well it’s bobbins. [local authority subcontractor][good orgs...] they’ve got really good management … good staff who managewell, who deliver well, and you get the right results. [Prime]
MimeticStandardardised approaches to uncertainty and risk,imitated across orgs.– Response to risk and institutional environment– Merger / acquisition to move into more ‘generic’ provision– TSOs shifting focus, reading the markete.g. disability charity moving to more mainstream provision:And it’s that balance between obviously commercial, the mission statement, and then in themiddle of that the fact that we know from the contracts that we’d run previously and thecomments that we’d had that actually there were going to be a lot of people referred toWork Programme who could do with the support that we could offer. So even though youcan’t control who’s coming through the door, therell be lots of people who benefit fromthat and we’ll have disabled people, people with mental health issues, whatever. [TS sub]Claims that specialist to generic is ‘natural transition’:when we went and opened up in a white working class part of Leeds, followed a similarapproach i.e. recruiting local people, and running the service in exactly the same way, loand behold, we were just good at getting people jobs [Prime]
The old structure/agency problem• Savvy TSO @ tier 1:[Primes] saw us as a health and social care provider and just thought all we wanted todo was hug people and have a chat... a lot of the big guys just think that the thirdsector isn’t outcome focused enough. *...+ It was a continual battle... that’s whypeople just wanted us to do specialist interventions and not the end-to-endbecause they though we were just... yeah... They liked the name... We couldevidence job outcomes but the primes still weren’t really confident we could doit. [TSO]• Savvy private @ tier 1:Q. So... as an organisation, you could see the writing on the wall?R. Absolutely, yeah absolutely...R. Which again, is why [name] decided we cant exist on this kind of business model.We need to have geographical coverage, hence he bought geographical coverage.
Normative and resistance• Normative – not so relevant but developing?– Professional standards/accreditation– Intermediary bodies• Resistance– Going beyond the contract– Service with human face / missione.g. Small TSO doing in work support, Prime wants basic checks, notpeople-centred service, Prime staff don’t ‘get it’• Local environment / resource dependencies– Almost certainly a factor but hard to research
Summary• Tier 1 is place to be, in this contractingenvironment, clear evidence of institutionalisomorphism• Amount of ‘movement’ T2s make depends oncommercial knowledge and resource dependence• TSOs have to ‘move’ to become more like privatesector orgs, in a variety of ways• Isomorphism suggests ways in whichpressures/movements operate• Unifying theory: Isomorphism + SAF
Questions for you• Is isomorphism a useful approach (worthpublishing on) or is this merely a confirmatorycase of isomorphism (banal)?• Does this add to third sector academicdebates? Particularly on sector boundaries,categories, shape of the sector, fields?• Useful theory? Linking D&P/iso with Fligsteinand McAdam...... Isomorphic pressures interacting withpositioning, incumbents and niches in SAF