Challenges of Service User Participation in Human Service Organisations: A Case Study in a Swedish Charity Organisation

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för socialt arbete

Abstract: This report aims to explore the failures of service user participation initiatives in human service organisations. Despite the positive portrayals of service user participation and goals towards implementation, often times putting it into practice may fail. Social work theories such as empowerment and democratisation are used to elaborate on why such initiatives are strived for. Further use of organisational theories such as institutional logic and isomorphism are used to analyse interviews with staff and guests of a local organisation aiming to implement service user participation in daily practices. This is a case study of a local human service organisation working in Gothenburg, Sweden that utilises a church, as a community meeting place, providing basic social services to clients who face homelessness along with other forms of social exclusion. The failures of implementation of service user participation in human service organisations can be strongly linked with a lack of recognition for the powerlessness of clients, competing institutional logics leading to contradictions in an organisation and lastly the mimetic nature of human service organisations that leads to implementations of technologies without proper evaluations. The results provided are grounded in participant observations of the church as a meeting place and two meetings held with management and service users, in combination with one-on-one interviews conducted separately with both, staff and service users. Thematic analysis is then used to analyse those experiences provided, to depict both commonalities and differences of their experiences. Despite these commonalities the implementation of service user participation is difficult to fulfil. With the support of organisational theories, specific to human service organisations, and social work theories, I provide an understanding in the implementation and possible failures of the practice of service user participation.

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