32 SES 06, Resistance and Dissent as Elements of Organizational Change
A current political concern in many OECD countries is the co-creation of new welfare policy and practice through collaboration between multiple stakeholders in order to innovate public services with fewer resources (Ansell & Torfing, 2014; Christensen & Lægreid, 2011). Research on such changing collaborative governance processes explores both potentials and problems, when different stakeholders such as politicians, administrators, frontline staff and citizens are engaged in welfare innovation (Osborne, 2009; Ansell & Gash, 2008; Griggs & Sullivan, 2014). Whereas the potential of public innovation and value-creation are intriguing to democratic ideals, the challenges include cultural diversity, conflicts, misunderstandings and inefficiency. Nonetheless, the literature stresses that despite the challenges, the demand for collaborative governance in welfare policy is needed now more than ever (Bryson et al., 2015). Accordingly, new collaborative models and management concepts are developed to advance theoretically with respect to these complications. However, as they remain to challenge in practice, a growing research aim is to understand the change dynamics that emerge through collaborative processes (Vangen & Winchester, 2013; Purdy, 2012; Plotnikof, 2016). Therefore, issues such as diversity management, process design and power are being investigated; however, central matters of e.g. resistance are surprisingly overseen – although resistance to political changes and welfare reform processes is not novel.
As such, resistance is not given much attention in the governance literature, if so merely as a destructive obstacle or as lacking individual adaptability to change amongst stakeholders (Kumar et al., 2007). Contrary to this, resistance is a central theme to a stream of research on organizational change processes (Thomas & Davies, 2005; Ford, Ford & D’amelio, 2008; Hernes & Maitlis, 2010; Plotnikof, 2015). These studies take a discursive perspective to approach resistance and power as intertwined in change dynamics, thus offering theorizing valuable to governance studies concerning political change. From such perspectives, resistance becomes a constitutive force intertwined with power struggles that affect changes in organizing processes and actor’s identities as new policies enter practice. Rather than a top-bottom linear change process, this is taken to be a complex and tensional dynamic by which change emerges in ongoing meaning negotiations and struggles of power-resistance (Putnam et al. 2005; Thomas, Sargent & Hardy, 2011; Thomas & Hardy, 2011). This dislocates the attention on resistance from a merely destructive or individual problem, to a productive, but also a tensional driver in change processes.
As regards, this paper investigates the constitutive role of resistance during collaborative change processes initiated by local educational management departments to meet central political reforms, as the different involved actors struggle to turn political visions into practice. However, rather than approaching such struggles as necessarily destructive, this study questions how resistance is negotiated and affect the emerging organizational changes constitutive to such reforms in practice? In answering this, the paper theorizes power-resistance relations as critical change dynamics and unfolds this through empirical analyses. Such theorization can contribute to advance the study on the organizational changes emerging through current welfare reform processes by means of novel conceptualizations and new empirical knowledge.
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