“It’s all up for grabs!” – charities managing change in times of crisis
Taylor, Rebecca; Arvidson, Malin (2012)

by Malin Arvidson (1) and Rebecca Taylor (2), Research fellows, Third Sector Research Centre, (1)University of Southampton (2) Birmingham University

Corresponding author: m.arvidson@soton.ac.uk

It is generally assumed that organisations operating in the same field develop collective rationalities (diMaggio and Powell 1983) such as professionalisation, business management, and performance evaluation. Such development can lead to unintended and counter-productive effects for organisational goals and ethos, for instance if performance evaluation and ensuing management prioritises numerical outputs over normative content and process. However, organisations are not passive agents but try to cope with competing rationalities (Townley 2002).

This research takes organisational crisis as the starting point from which to explore competing and collective rationalities. The urgency brought on by a crisis sheds light on how different rationalities are interpreted and applied. Organisations are forced to review their strengths and weaknesses and in so doing illustrate how they relate to and define rationalities such as professionalisation, efficiency and organisational management, and marketization.

The context of third sector organisations (TSOs) provides a unique window to explore this topic further. In the UK, TSOs find themselves in a turbulent period brought on by new policies for public service delivery and underscored by a financial crisis. The paper refers to rich empirical material gathered from a longitudinal study, following a set of service delivery organisations in England. A full paper and presentation will draw on this material to illustrate how organisations make sense of and are trying to cope in a period that threatens organisational survival.Malin Arvidson and Rebecca Taylor are both research fellows at TSRC (University of Southampton and Birmingham respectively) working on the Real Times project, a qualitative longitudinal study of third sector organisations. Malin also works with research on impact evaluation, and Rebecca is working on projects in the Theory and Policy and Service Delivery research streams.

Presentation (pdf)

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