Collaboration among non-profit organisations in policy discourse
Watts, Jo (2016)

The ‘new’ UK policy era, which began with the 2010 election of the Coalition administration and continues under the Conservative Party, has been characterised by austerity, fiscal constraint and changes in ideas about welfare and its provision. Scholars have pointed to a shift from welfare as a basic human right to a self-service society where individuals, communities and civil society organizations are expected to take increasing responsibility (Eriksson, 2012; Watson, 2013). Moreover –  and as the call for papers identifies – changes in the government’s policy and funding orientation towards the sector and intense and growing pressure on resources at a local level raise questions around potential new organizational forms as a response to this ‘new’ era of social policy. Here, I take the specific topic of inter-organizational collaboration as my focus, given the incumbent administration’s drive for economies of scale and subsequent motivation for smaller providers who wish to engage in service delivery under contract to develop collaborations.

This paper will adopt the lens of discursive institutionalism (Schmidt, 2008; 2010; 2011) to explore the extent to which the current policy landscape can be considered ‘new’. Rather than representing a new policy era, I explore the ways in which the current orientation of the Conservative government harks back to, for example, the monetarist ideas of the Thatcher era (Schmidt, 2011). I therefore examine the discursive layering or bricolage of ideas (Schpaizman, 2014) over time and focus specifically on how inter-organizational collaboration has been presented throughout several political eras. In doing so, I aim to raise a series of questions regarding the potential impact of current policy ideas on the future nature and efficacy of collaboration which will guide a future programme of doctoral study.

Jo combines teaching and research in her role as Graduate Tutor at Sheffield Business School.  Prior to entering academia, she worked at senior levels in both non-profit and private sector organizations with a strong emphasis on strategic development.  Her work has contributed to funding bids highlighting participative, asset-based approaches to community development addressing the issues of food poverty and social isolation.  She completed an MSc in Coaching and Mentoring at Sheffield Hallam University; her research focused on creating space for informal learning conversations and creative community projects.  This work was used as part of a bid to secure a five-year lottery funded project (£500k) to further develop the research.  She is currently working on PhD research looking at the nature and efficacy of inter-organizational collaboration in the Voluntary Sector.