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Symbiotic relationships in educational services for vulnerable adolescents

Suzana Battistella-Lima (Department of Marketing, FGV-EAESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Tânia Veludo-de-Oliveira (Department of Marketing, FGV-EAESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Edgard Barki (Department of Marketing, FGV-EAESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 7 May 2020

Issue publication date: 7 November 2020




The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether and to what extent different forms of symbiotic relationships (named mutualism and collaboration) within a usage centre lead to different levels of value in use for its resource integrators. This study focusses on the educational services provided in deprived neighbourhoods to potentially vulnerable adolescents.


This study applies a two-phase sequential exploratory mixed-method design. The first phase included a qualitative study that involved both the focal (the students) and peripheral resource integrators (the students’ parents) of a Brazilian educational institution that had exceptional results. The qualitative findings were used to build a comparative multi-group survey with four subgroups in which 530 peripheral resource integrators participated.


A mutualistic educational institution in which the participation of students’ parents is mandatory creates more value in use than collaborative institutions in which parental participation is optional. In the context of educational services for vulnerable adolescents, value in use is echoed in the coexistence of families, greater caring about the students, and the encouragement from the adolescents’ positive beliefs about education and respectful relationships with others.

Social implications

Initiatives aimed at addressing social issues regarding children or adolescents in situations of vulnerability will achieve better results if their families are contemplated and involved.


This study is the first to empirically test Kleinaltenkamp et al.’s usage centre framework (2017). In so doing, the study advances the understanding of how the interdependence of actors in the usage processes leads to value creation for vulnerable populations.



This research received support from the Coordination for Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), Brazilian Ministry of Education, Brazil.


Battistella-Lima, S., Veludo-de-Oliveira, T. and Barki, E. (2020), "Symbiotic relationships in educational services for vulnerable adolescents", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 819-831.



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