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A discursive study of institutionalisation in community organisations

Peri O'Shea (University of Western Sydney, Penrith South, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 30 October 2007




The institutionalisation of neo‐liberalist discourse has significantly changed the way in which the relationship between government and community organisations is described and regulated in Australia. These changes are most clearly articulated in government policy discourse as a move away from “funding” community service organisations to “purchasing” the delivery of community services. This research aims to explore institutionalisation in the community sector: how institutionalisation interplays with increased central control, the impact on practice and the continued relevance of community organisations.


This research applies critical discourse analysis, within the framework of neo‐institutional theory, to examine data from “conversations” with workers in community organisations.


Imposed institutionalisation, seen to threaten flexibility and autonomy, is spurned. However, some evidence of increased internal institutionalisation revealed some potential to strengthen the sector from within.


Due to significant devolution of government services, the extent of welfare provision provided by community organisations is now so great that a crisis in the community sector would result in severe disruption in the delivery of welfare services in Australia. An examination of how the community sector can be resilient and relevant in this new policy environment has important practical implications at the local and international level.



O'Shea, P. (2007), "A discursive study of institutionalisation in community organisations", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 27 No. 11/12, pp. 483-493.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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