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Competitive advantage in the new contrived social care marketplace: how did we get here?

Patricia Dearnaley (Managing Director of East Training & Consultancy, Bedford, UK)

Housing, Care and Support

ISSN: 1460-8790

Article publication date: 7 June 2013




Changes in the social care sector over the past 20 years have effected a fundamental shift in commissioning and delivery relationships, creating new markets for social housing services. This paper aims to examine how far existing theories around competitive advantage in markets are compatible with the new public management (NPM) approach to the market, or whether there is a need for a new approach to business planning for agencies that addresses the particular characteristics of this specific quasi‐market.


This paper draws upon original research developed through a single holistic case study of a UK social housing service, using qualitative research methods including document analysis, interviews, secondary data, observations and facilitated meetings.


Existing business theory and models around competitive advantage do not suit this “contrived” NPM market. A new framework or model will be needed for analysis and business planning in this new environment.


This paper adds to existing knowledge by critiquing current business models, and positing a potential development to existing contingency theory: the external drivers model. The study has resulted in a number of outputs including an outline of a toolkit to assist in using the model. The model requires further research to establish its generalisability to other organisations and other sectors.



Dearnaley, P. (2013), "Competitive advantage in the new contrived social care marketplace: how did we get here?", Housing, Care and Support, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 76-84.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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