Social service hybridisation
New Zealand is seeing increased commercialisation of traditional not-for-profit and social enterprises, but it seems this hybridisation comes at a price.
University of Otago researchers Drs Richard Greatbanks, Maria Amoamo and Diane Ruwhiu have been surveying Dunedin social service providers to better understand the implications of hybridisation.
Intense competition among social service providers was one of the first issues they identified. The research also focused on Māori and non-Māori perspectives – a unique aspect in New Zealand social service provision.
The pilot study shows most have been competing for funding from government that prefers funding larger national providers. Social service leaders perceived a “one-size-fits-all” approach with a narrow perspective of social issues that did not fit with regional challenges or the cultural needs of Māori.
This further promoted “short termism”, where funders contracted specific services with narrow time frames, jeopardising the sustainability and long-term planning of social service providers. The consequent marketisation of social services has resulted in more competitive behaviour, and compliance issues are becoming a big part of organisations’ operations.
The research identified increasing vulnerability of Dunedin social services, with many local organisations unable to bid for national service contracts.
However, the researchers say it’s not all bad – hybridisation has improved reporting and recording standards, with potential to leverage off a more qualified workforce. But the tensions created by disenfranchising local values shouldn’t be ignored.
A case study will follow with more in-depth examples of the implications and consequences, to better inform policymakers about the regional impacts of the funding environment.