The proposed papers each utilize neo-institutional theory to examine how nonprofit human service organizations are adapting to their institutional environments and the effects these adaptations have for clients and social workers. Specific areas of exploration include changes in the choice of service technology, involvement in advocacy, and the development of commercial ventures. Collectively, these papers help produce a broad picture of how daily management practice has changed and provide insight into the challenges ahead for human service organizations and social work managers.
Paper #1 examines how performance contracting and managed care (increasingly dominant in many nonprofit arenas) have resulted in changes in the service technologies used by nonprofits providing foster care services. Using a mixed-methods approach, the paper examines the influence of technological changes on the intensity of service provision and finds that some organizational adaptations were related to substantial changes in service utilization, controlling for client-level characteristics.
Paper #2 explores the consequences of privatization, professionalization, and formalization for the policy advocacy activities of human service nonprofits. Using quantitative survey data, this paper finds that increased dependence on government funds and greater institutionalization actually promote advocacy, but particularly promote an insider approach to advocacy where it is possible that organizational maintenance goals may overtake social change goals.
Paper #3 is an investigation into what happens when organizations replace mission related goals with market related ones. Ethnographic data from a human service nonprofit that provides homeless clients with job training in businesses owned by the nonprofit demonstrate that an increased emphasis on commercial objectives led to negative outcomes for both social workers and clients.
Paper #4 also explores the quickly growing trend of social enterprise. Using neo-institutional theory to frame social enterprises as operating in two different external organizational fields, a business field and a social service field, this paper explores differences in how nonprofits structure those businesses in relationship to the other services they provide. The findings highlight the skill and resource capacity shortfalls that need to be addressed in order for human service nonprofits to be successful in this area.