Abstract: The Perception of Social Workers Regarding the Competitive Institutional Environments and Networking Among Nonprofit Social Service Agencies (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

332P The Perception of Social Workers Regarding the Competitive Institutional Environments and Networking Among Nonprofit Social Service Agencies

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Junghee Bae, MA, PhD Candidate, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Eunhye Kim, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Georgia, athens, GA
Jiyeon Han, PhD, Instructor, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Introduction:This study explores South Korean social workers’ understanding of network building between similar types of nonprofit social service agencies in the same community. Networks can facilitate the sharing of resources, information, and skills among social service agencies to provide a better quality of services for clients. Such networking eventually reduces gaps and overlaps among delivered services. In South Korea, the majority of social service agencies are funded by local governments, and social service agencies receiving government funding must be evaluated every three years with regard to programs, relationships with the community, financial status, and so on. Based on this evaluation, some local governments offer incentives to social workers and agencies if they receive high grades. Also, a high grade ensures the agency’s future government funding, usually for the following three years. This evaluation system creates competitive pressure among social service agencies. Although several community agencies located in the same community may provide similar types of services in those communities, these agencies do not share community resources and professional skills with social workers in other agencies in order to preserve their advantage. Moreover, due to the privatization of social service in South Korea, nonprofit social service agencies are increasingly exposed to competition with other organizations in receiving funding from the government and private organizations. However, little is known about how social work practitioners perceive the competitive institutional environment and how it affects their networking efforts.

Methods:The study utilized a basic descriptive qualitative research design. Social workers in nonprofit social service organizations in South Korea that received a government evaluation from 2016 to 2018 were selected for this study. A total of 25 social work professionals who are at the director level or above in their agency were interviewed using semi-structured interview guides. The interview was conducted for 60 minutes via video call. Nvivo 12 was utilized for thematic analysis to identify implicit and explicit ideas within the data.

Findings: Most social workers were aware of the importance of networking with other agencies. Although nonprofit social service agencies established relationships with local governments and agencies, the organizations did not collaborate with similar types of agencies because of the relative evaluation system. The evaluation system that influences continuous funding of the agencies and incentives for social workers in these agencies hindered networking between similar organizations. The government funding and evaluation systems did not motivate social service agencies to build networks to provide better quality of services. Thus, these environments increased competition with other agencies and reduced motivation to network with other agencies.

Implications:The findings suggest that absolute evaluation should be considered to decrease competition among social service agencies. It is necessary for local governments to take the initiative in building networks, and the number of evaluation items should be expanded to increase networking by social service agencies. In addition, continued training for social workers regarding network building is crucial to constructing an environment to create interorganizational relationships with other agencies in their community.