Marrying sustainability and effectiveness in community organisations promoting health: supporting a “hybrid” organisational model
Zasada, Magda (2013)

Magda Zasada, University of Southampton

Promoting healthy lifestyles in deprived neighbourhoods presents particular challenges to health practitioners. It is argued that using community development methods can be effective in engaging hard to reach groups, aiming to satisfy a variety of locally unmet needs and, ideally, influencing broader local policies and agendas. Community organisations which do this kind of work face the challenge of reconciling their mission and beliefs about working with communities and remaining financially sustainable in a competitive commissioning environment in austere times.

This paper aims to respond to the question: what enables community organisations to overcome the tensions inherent in delivering effective and sustainable health promotion services in disadvantaged neighbourhoods? It draws upon an ethnographic study of three organisations which were established as public sector projects supported by national grant funding. They have since become organisationally independent, two as registered charities and one as a local residents’ committee, but remain reliant on some public sector funding.

The study’s findings suggest that effectiveness and financial sustainability can be combined through taking on a “hybrid” organisational model: bringing together a community development ethos with an entrepreneurial mind-set, whilst complying with public sector funding requirements. This necessitates a strong organisational culture which would facilitate adopting ways of working characteristic of public, private as well as voluntary sector organisations. It was found that the studied organisations have not achieved this in equal measure. This paper explores the way organisational capacity and particular characteristics of their environment can support or hinder the organisation’s ability to deliver effective and sustainable health promotion services in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.


Magda Zasada is a third year doctoral researcher in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Southampton. Her current research interests include the organisational and social aspects of public service provision, particularly the role of community organisations in improving health and wellbeing, and the implications of a changing policy environment for organisations delivering health services.

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