Den mångtydiga FoU-idén : lokala FoU-enheters mening och betydelse
Sammanfattning: During the 1990’s we witnessed an increasing number of local research and development (R&D) units in the Swedish public sector of social welfare outside academic institutions. The aim of this thesis is to explore the R&D phenomenon, the establishment of local R&D units and what the activities at the R&D units are. The issue of local R&D units has been divided into three aspects that correspond to three studies: a societal study, an organizational study and an individual study. Qualitative methods have been used including 10 case studies, 86 interviews with researchers and co-workers at the R&D units, 20 interviews with participating practitioners, analyses of R&D projects, documents and official reports. The analysis has been guided by new institutional theories about organizational change, how organizational concepts are spread and translated in organizational fields.Currents in social politics and research politics have, together with a criticism against academic research and its insufficiency in solving practical problems, caused a societal pressure on changed relations between research and practice. Cutbacks and changes in social welfare organizations have, together with an uncertainty about the outcomes and results of the social services, led to increasing demands for knowledge and professional competence in social work.The local R&D concept can be described in three key sentences; knowledge development close to social practice, interplay between research and practice and participation from practitioners. From a tool perspective local R&D units are established for playing a vital role in rationalizing their mother organizations and developing their efficiency in fulfilling their duties. The spreading of the R&D concept in the field of social welfare sector is characterized by ideological control. By referring to ideas of modernity and progress the local R&D units are associated with central cultural values. The R&D concept is therefore also attractive from a symbolic perspective, it helps legitimise their mother organizations and prove their identity.Many projects at the R&D units correspond with the notion of rational organizations striving for improving their efficiency. At the same time R&D units display a variety of heterogeneous projects that appear as fragmentary and loosely coupled to their mother organizations. The local R&D units are also mixed up in internal organizational conflicts. On an individual level practitioners have experienced learning and a salutary break from the ordinary work. The functions of participating in R&D projects are less instrumental and have more interactive and enlightening character. Some functions are not only hidden but also even in conflict with the official goals and intentions of the R&D units.Local R&D units show an organizational instability with various meanings for different agents. Questions for future studies should concern the actual effects of local R&D units. The thesis concludes with the question of whether or not local R&D units are anything more than an organizational fashion. The late modern society has caused a need for developing reflexive knowledge and capacity among social agents. In the boarder zone between academy and social welfare work, a long-term challenge arises for the R&D units, namely to develop new forms of knowledge production that are both academically and socially robust.
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