The purpose of this paper is to analyze how accounts of costs and accounts of needs are shaped, connected and made durable in the day-to-day practices of welfare professionals.
Throughout a year, the author traced the work of connecting costs and needs across and beyond the organizational boundaries of the accounting and child protection departments in a Danish local government. Over the course of the study, accountants realized that the budget was overspent and this, accordingly, gave insights into what was done to make accounts more durable.
This paper shows that multiple accountabilities are made possible through the ongoing and practical work of shaping, connecting and making accounts durable. This fragile process fails when connections between separate aspects of organizational work are not made visible.
This paper attempts to convey the potentials of a symmetrical approach for organizational ethnography. In this way, it does not, for instance, address prevailing budget limits or regimes of cost control.
Insights into how accounts are shaped into meeting multiple and diverging demands for accountability are rare in both the fields of management accounting as a practice and research on social work practice.
This paper was developed as a part of my PhD. I am grateful that the Independent Research Fund Denmark awarded me with a grant to finance my PhD. I thank Barbara Czarniawska for inspiring me to write the paper and Ebba Sjögren, Jan Mouritsen, Lise Justesen and two anonymous reviewers for helping me finishing the paper.
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