To be of use : creative practice across the front lines of economic self-sufficiency programs
Author(s)Goldman, Laurie S
Creative practice across the front lines of economic self-sufficiency programs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Langley C. Keyes.
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How public serving agencies uphold the principles of responsiveness to multiple stakeholders and responsibility for program performance is a common theme in contemporary public management discourse. The contributions of frontline human service workers, however, have received relatively scant attention. Despite their prevalence among those charged with implementing social welfare policies and the acknowledged importance of their interactions with clients and other stakeholders, frontline staff continue to be perceived as part of the problem of government rather than potential contributors to the work of governance. This dissertation examines how workers with minimal authority or recognized professional expertise apply their knowledge from practice and commitment to service to enhance accountability, assume responsibility for improving program delivery, and develop their capacity to engage in both of these core tasks.The study is based on five years of observations of three forums where frontline practitioners who operate the same two economic self-sufficiency programs in different nonprofit and public low-income housing agencies meet regularly to discuss common challenges, share solutions, and design new approaches to making the programs work better. These observations inform the concept of creative street-level practice I develop to describe departures from official program directives that add value to ongoing program delivery according to the community of practice.I find that creative street-level practice is feasible in the context of both flexible and more rigid regulatory program designs. The self-sufficiency practitioners use strategies of collaboration and sensemaking to generate novel practices that range from subtle, procedural modifications to entirely new program elements. Creative street-level practice is a dynamic process that evolves incrementally over stages of program implementation and in response to developments in the organizational, economic, and policy environment. Participation in the discussion forums enhances the capacity for creative practice. The forums function as learning networks, work teams for collective action, and support groups for sustaining members' commitment to keeping up the effort. Forum members generate and enact more creative practices when they perceive problems to be urgent and feasible for them to address and when external actors help facilitate discussion and convey their ideas to decision-makers.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2009.Includes bibliographical references (p. 437-451).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.