Locked-in collaboration

Detta är en avhandling från Göteborg : School of Public Administration, University of Gothenburg

Sammanfattning: Collaboration, employed in defining a problem, finding a solution, and implementing it, has been proposed as a solution to a range of problems framed as wicked or complex. Collaboration can be justified based on instrumental, normative, and value-based reasoning. All approaches start in what collaboration is not: it is not demarcated, silo-based organization, but instead endeavours to achieve comprehensive and holistic perspectives and measures of service delivery. This has resulted in a great deal of research taking a normative and evaluative ap- proach to collaboration. In contrast, this thesis contributes to the growing critical stream of collaboration research. The overall aim of the thesis is to explain how collaboration has come to be a taken-for-granted solution and the possible consequences of this. The material was generated through a study of legally regulated inter- organizational collaboration (referred to by the acronym “FINSAM”) in the Swedish public sector implemented through local coordination associations. The coordination associations implement regulated collaboration between the Swe- dish National Employment Agency, the National Social Insurance Office, county councils, and municipal councils. Each local coordination association has a joint board and a pooled budget, which is to be used to finance measures targeting individuals in need of coordinated rehabilitation. The study was conducted through fieldwork in two local coordination associations, as well as in confer- ences and seminars addressing FINSAM in general. The findings indicate that collaboration in local coordination associations is organized in a project-like way alongside ordinary organizational practice. Two different approaches to organization were identified: the coordination association as either an actor or an arena. Depending on approach the coordination association will be more or less demarcated from ordinary organizational practice. De- marcation is strengthened through the construction of accountability. When local coordination associations are held accountable they are treated as hierarchical organizations with only vertical, but no horizontal, responsibilities. Horizontal practice and outcome are downplayed when accountability is constructed. The findings also indicate that the values attributed to this collaboration, together with its ordering narratives and its impact on legitimacy, create a dynamic result- ing in reduced need and latitude to problematize collaboration, which is taken for granted as the solution. This perceived decreased need for problematizing is connected to the pooled budget and the way the collaboration is understood: as something unique and better suited to handling the identified problems. The conclusion is that collaboration has become locked in within project-like organizations and organizing, and locked in as a solution through the rationalized myth of collaboration. The law governing FINSAM and specially allocated reources in pooled budgets strengthens this lock-in.

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