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Article
Publication date: 7 October 2014

Johanna Kallio and Arttu Saarinen

The purpose of this paper is to examine the attitudes of street-level bureaucrats from different agencies and sectors of the Finnish welfare state, namely municipal social…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the attitudes of street-level bureaucrats from different agencies and sectors of the Finnish welfare state, namely municipal social workers, diaconal workers of the Lutheran church, benefit officials of the Social Security Institution and officials of private unemployment funds.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors are interested in the following questions: What are the attitudes of street-level bureaucrats towards the labour market allowance? What is the impact of individual characteristics? The study utilised the unique national survey data of different groups of street-level bureaucrats from the year 2011 (total N=2,313). The dependent variables focus on legitimacy of the basic level of labour market allowance and sanction policies. Analyses are built around five independent variables which measure professional, personal interest and ideological factors.

Findings

There are differences both between and within groups of Finnish street-level bureaucrats with regard to their attitudes concerning the labour market allowance. Social and diaconal workers believe more often than officials that the level of labour market allowance is too low, and offer less support for the idea that an unemployed person should take any job that is offered or have their unemployment security reduced. The results show that the attitudes of bureaucrats are explained by length of work history, economic situation and ideological factors.

Originality/value

There have been very few analyses comparing attitudes among different groups of bureaucrats. The present study is intended to fill this gap in the literature.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 34 no. 11/12
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

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Book part
Publication date: 8 October 2018

Halvard Vike

In Michael Lipsky’s intriguing analysis of the performance of public bureaucracy – in his classic Street-level Bureaucracy (1980) – he shows, for example, the professional…

Abstract

In Michael Lipsky’s intriguing analysis of the performance of public bureaucracy – in his classic Street-level Bureaucracy (1980) – he shows, for example, the professional discretion they apply may not only involve adapting policy to the individual case, meet real needs in the population, prevent patients, clients, students or users from getting access, etc., but at the same time both have profound policy implications and take very ‘political’ forms. In this chapter, I argue that it is regrettable that Lipsky did not establish a comparative framework for his study. Based on my own ethnographic research in local politics and bureaucratic practice in the municipal world in Norway, I look more closely at the relative autonomy of street-level bureaucracy within the context of universalism – a hallmark of the Nordic welfare state model (Esping-Andersen 1998, 2009) – and explore how it is utilised. The Nordic welfare states are among the most ‘service intense’ states in the Western world, and the personnel working directly with patients, students, clients, etc., play a major role in linking ‘the state’ to the population (Papakostas, 2001, Vike et al., 2002). Thus, the role of the Nordic welfare state’s street-level bureaucracy as a key interface between the state and the population is hard to overestimate (Leira & Sainsbury, 1994). Moreover, as universalism also tends to stimulate what we may call a culture of strong claims (to services) among the population at large, street-level bureaucrats may be able to form strong alliances with other actors, and thus play an important part of the dynamics of power in local politics – where fundamental policy principles such as universalism is at stake.

Details

Bureaucracy and Society in Transition
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78743-283-3

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2003

Lisa A. Dicke

This article suggests that leadership does not just occur in the higher echelons of a bureaucratic hierarchy, but is endemic throughout the organization and is present…

Abstract

This article suggests that leadership does not just occur in the higher echelons of a bureaucratic hierarchy, but is endemic throughout the organization and is present even at the basic rank and file level. Street-level leaders emerge when the need arises for quick decisions and responses to complex stimuli. These relatively "informal" leaders can exert a significant influence on how and what things get done. Many of these decisions involve transactional decisions between leaders and followers. However, to deal with more complex challenges, street-level leaders may need to incorporate transformational leadership strategies, similar to leaders higher in the hierarchy. To test this thesis this article reports the survey findings of a study of state agency of disabilities and their contractor provider organizations.

Details

International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, vol. 7 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1093-4537

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Article
Publication date: 1 December 2006

Ian Taylor and Josie Kelly

Seeks to examine how far Michael Lipsky's theory of discretion as it relates to public sector professionals as “streetlevel bureaucrats” is still applicable in the light…

Abstract

Purpose

Seeks to examine how far Michael Lipsky's theory of discretion as it relates to public sector professionals as “streetlevel bureaucrats” is still applicable in the light of public sector reform and in particular the introduction of increased managerial control over professionals.

Design/methodology/approach

The main thesis in Lipsky's work, StreetLevel Bureaucracy, that streetlevel bureaucrats devise their own rules and procedures to deal with the dilemmas of policy implementation is linked to public sector reform over the past 25 years or so. The article differentiates between three forms of discretion, rule, task and value and assesses the extent to which these different forms of discretion have been compromised by reform. Examples are drawn principally from the literature on school teachers and social workers

Findings

The findings suggest that the rule‐making (hence bureaucratic) capacity of professionals at streetlevel is much less influential than before although it is questionable whether or not the greater accountability of professionals to management and clarity of the targets and objectives of organisations delivering public policy has liberated them from the dilemmas of streetlevel bureaucracy.

Research limitations/implications

The work has focussed on the UK and in particular on two professions. However, it may be applied to any country which has undergone public sector reform and in particular where “new public management” processes and procedures have been implemented. There is scope for in‐depth studies of a range of occupations, professional and otherwise in the UK and elsewhere.

Practical implications

Policy makers and managers should consider how far the positive aspects of facilitating discretion in the workplace by reducing the need for “rule‐making” to cope with dilemmas have been outweighed by increased levels of bureaucracy and the “de‐skilling” of professionals.

Originality/value

Lipsky's much cited and influential work is evaluated in the light of public sector reform some 25 years since it was published. The three forms of discretion identified offer the scope for their systematic application to the workplace.

Details

International Journal of Public Sector Management, vol. 19 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3558

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2009

Kathleen A. McGinn

This article uses Michel Foucaultʼs theoretical work in examining relations of power within the unique context of street-level bureaucracies (Lipsky, 1980). Through…

Abstract

This article uses Michel Foucaultʼs theoretical work in examining relations of power within the unique context of street-level bureaucracies (Lipsky, 1980). Through Foucaultʼs techniques of discipline (1995), it analyzes how employees and managers are both objectified and selfproduced within collective bargaining agreements from street level organizations. Findings show that ‘managers’, ‘employees’ and ‘union representatives’ are produced but also constrained within these documents. These collective bargaining agreements also serve to ‘fix’ relationships discursively affirmed as unequal. Constrained by this ‘reality’, any potential for changing relationships between managers and employees through prescriptions that ask street-level bureaucrats to be ‘leaders’; “responsible choice-makers” (Vinzant & Crothers, 1998, p. 154) rather than policy implementers simply carrying out management directives are largely futile.

Details

International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, vol. 12 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1093-4537

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Article
Publication date: 8 June 2015

Sarah Louise Alden

Lipsky’s street level bureaucrat conceptual framework is employed to assist in understanding the ways in which statutory frontline homelessness practitioners are engaging…

Abstract

Purpose

Lipsky’s street level bureaucrat conceptual framework is employed to assist in understanding the ways in which statutory frontline homelessness practitioners are engaging with the current welfare reform agenda. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

Draws the street level bureaucrat framework. A national baseline survey of homelessness practitioners was followed by targeted qualitative interviews involving 12 local authorities in England.

Findings

Homelessness practitioners are facing a twofold crisis due to an increase in service users and corresponding decrease in feasible housing options or resources to tackle this. It was reported that effective service provision for all who required it was becoming increasingly difficult, which in turn fostered an environment in which unlawful gatekeeping practices could thrive. Further, it was found that a service user’s position may be additionally weakened due to the new powers conferred in the Localism Act.

Research limitations/implications

Qualitative data were limited to North East Authorities due to limited research resources.

Social implications

The current austere climate is negatively impacting upon the delivery of statutory homelessness provision. Differing implementation of the Localism Act will lead to inequitable service outcomes.

Originality/value

Application of the street level bureaucrat implementation framework to English homelessness services, a national survey of English frontline service delivery in an austere climate.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 35 no. 5/6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

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Article
Publication date: 7 April 2020

Harish P. Jagannath

To examine the implementation processes and outcomes of collaborative governance initiatives through the lens of bureaucratic politics.

Abstract

Purpose

To examine the implementation processes and outcomes of collaborative governance initiatives through the lens of bureaucratic politics.

Design/methodology/approach

An in-depth single case study research design with 28 embedded cases to study the implementation of a collaborative governance initiative. This paper uses the analytical technique of process tracing to explicate necessary and sufficient conditions to uncover causal mechanisms and confirm descriptive and causal inferences.

Findings

This study finds that when street-level bureaucrats perceived the collaborative initiative as a health intervention (and not as a collaborative initiative), it resulted in low levels of stakeholder participation and made the collaborative initiative unsuccessful. This paper finds that bureaucratic politics is the causal mechanism that further legitimized this perception resulting in each stakeholder group avoiding participation and sticking to their departmental siloes.

Research limitations/implications

This is a single case study about a revelatory case of collaborative governance implementation in India, and findings are analytically generalizable to similar administrative contexts. Further research is needed through a multiple case study design in a comparative context to examine bureaucratic politics in implementing collaborative initiatives.

Practical implications

Policymakers and managers need to carefully consider the implications of engaging organizations with competing institutional histories when formulating and implementing collaborative governance initiatives.

Originality/value

This study's uniqueness is that it examines implementation of collaborative governance through a bureaucratic politics lens. Specifically, the study applies Western-centric scholarship on collaborative governance and street-level bureaucracy to a non-Western developing country context to push the theoretical and empirical boundaries of key concepts in public administration.

Details

International Journal of Public Sector Management, vol. 33 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3558

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Book part
Publication date: 21 October 2008

Ashley A. Dunham, Teresa L. Scheid and William P. Brandon

This chapter explores how primary care physicians deliver mental health treatment for Medicaid patients in one county in the United States, and how treatment may have…

Abstract

This chapter explores how primary care physicians deliver mental health treatment for Medicaid patients in one county in the United States, and how treatment may have changed after HMO enrollment with a mental health carve-out. We utilize Lipsky's theory of street-level bureaucracy to better understand how primary care physicians treat Medicaid patients for depression and what types of insurance arrangements support or inhibit that treatment. Exploratory interviews with 20 physicians revealed that the patient's status as a non-voluntary client, service system barriers and physicians’ commitment to treatment caused them to bear primary responsibility for the majority of depression care. Physicians were willing to act as advocates for their clients and viewed such advocacy as ethical given the lack of mental health parity. In general, primary care physicians were not familiar with new policies dictating mental health carve-outs for Medicaid patients, nor were they concerned with how mental health care was reimbursed for their patients. However, they were willing to provide mental health care even if they were not reimbursed. Physicians rely upon medication management to treat depression, and reimbursement plays a role in the amount of time spent with patients and in the coding used for the visit. Lipsky's (1980) theory of street-level bureaucracy provides a useful framework for understanding how physicians will act as advocates for their clients in the face of structural as well as resource constraints on health care.

Details

Care for Major Health Problems and Population Health Concerns: Impacts on Patients, Providers and Policy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-160-2

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Book part
Publication date: 17 August 2020

Yolanda Patrice Jones

Librarians have been urged to emphasize social justice and human rights issues in their library mission, but they may find themselves challenged to provide additional…

Abstract

Librarians have been urged to emphasize social justice and human rights issues in their library mission, but they may find themselves challenged to provide additional services, such as access to legal information for those who cannot afford an attorney. Social justice services in libraries are seldom adequately funded and providing services in this area is labor intensive. In addition, there is an emotional intensity in library services for social justice that is often not considered in the initial enthusiasm of providing services in this area. Yet there seems to be no limit to the need. An interesting and useful perspective on how a public agency such as a library responds in circumstances of limited resources and unlimited demand can be found in the book Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Service, by Michael Lipsky. In this perspective, lower level civil servants who interact directly with members of the general public exercise a level of discretion in the amount of services provided and how those services are administered. This chapter explores how this can generate tensions between more traditional library bureaucracy and social justice services, such as providing public access to justice resources in law libraries. However, the “street-level” response is evolving into a sustainability perspective as librarians embrace a more social justice–oriented outlook in library service planning.

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Article
Publication date: 9 April 2018

Md Morshed Alom

The purpose of this paper is to provide a model that demonstrates how some organizational factors are linked to the proactive transparency behavior and outward…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a model that demonstrates how some organizational factors are linked to the proactive transparency behavior and outward accountability orientation of frontline public bureaucracies.

Design/methodology/approach

The model is developed on the basis of literature review.

Findings

It is shown in the model that some dimensions of organizational culture are linked to the “value for proactive transparency,” which, in turn, is linked to the “proactive transparency behavior” of frontline public bureaucracies. The proactive transparency behavior is also influenced by organizational structure and organizational endowment. Finally, the proactive transparency behavior determines “outward accountability” orientation.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the understanding of the frontline public bureaucracy’s transparency behavior and outward accountability orientation from the perspective of organizational factors such as culture, structure, and endowment.

Details

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, vol. 67 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1741-0401

Keywords

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