Empowering citizens or mining resources? The contested domain of citizen engagement in professional care services

Ludo Glimmerveen*, Sierk Ybema, Henk Nies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

When studying individual attempts to foster citizen engagement, scholars have pointed to the coexistence of competing rationales. Thus far, however, current literature barely elaborates on the socio-political processes through which employees of professional organizations deal with such disparate considerations. To address this gap, this article builds on an ethnographic study, conducted in the Netherlands between 2013 and 2016, of a professional care organization's attempts to engage local citizens in one of its elderly care homes. To investigate how citizen engagement is ‘done’ in the context of daily organizing, we followed employees as they gradually created and demarcated the scope for such engagement by approaching citizens as either strategic partners (pursuing ‘democratic’ rationales) or as operational volunteers (pursuing ‘instrumental’ rationales). In order to deal with such potentially incongruent orientations, we found that employees used discursive strategies to influence the balance that was struck between competing rationales; either through depoliticization—i.e., the downplaying of incongruities and the framing of disparate considerations as being complementary within the pursuit of a shared, overarching goal—or through politicization, i.e., the active challenging of how their colleagues prioritized one consideration over another. By showing how the successful conveyance of such (de)politicized accounts helped employees either defend or redraw the boundaries of what citizen engagement was (not) about, we contribute to extant theorization by (1) developing a processual approach to studying citizen engagement that (2) is sensitive to organizational politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume203
Early online date7 Mar 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Citizen engagement
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Management
  • Organizational boundaries
  • Participation
  • Public involvement
  • The Netherlands
  • Volunteering

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