Why Share Power? Exploring the Motives for Creating Opportunities for Citizen Participation in Local Health and Human Service Contracts
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This study explores the reasons why public and private managers involved in contract implementation create opportunities for citizen participation. We draw upon a number of organizational theories, including transaction costs, institutionalism, goal attainment, constituency satisfaction, stewardship, and goal ambiguity, to propose explanations for the adoption of community engagement practices. We formulate three key theoretical explanations: (1) motivations related to strengthening democracy, (2) motivations related to organizational goals and values and (3) motivations related to different external constituencies.
Data for this study come from 91 semi-structured interviews with public, nonprofit, and for-profit contract managers in six counties across four Northeastern states. The contracts included in our sample are within the broad field of health and human services. Qualitative data analysis, aided by QSR NVivo 10, provides support for the three overarching categories of motives listed above.
Many public and private managers view citizen participation as a tool for assessing and improving program quality. Other key reasons for engaging citizens include understanding and serving client needs and acting in accordance with a county’s or organization’s participatory culture. Additionally, our findings highlight important differences across public and private sector respondents. Requirements imposed by outside stakeholders and the desire to be responsive and accountable to the community were key motivating factors reported by public but not private managers. Meanwhile, client empowerment appears to be more salient to private managers than public ones. This research seeks to inform and enhance the strategies used by public and private managers to engage clients and their communities in public administration.
- Amirkhanyan Lambright APPAM 2015.pdf (460.0KB)