Is ‘Prevent’ the beginnings of controlling value based organisations?

Following the ongoing consultation by the government in regard to regulating and registering organisations who provide after school and holiday time care, the consultation is here:

Forgive the length of this piece of work, it is based upon my MA presentation on the effect of Government policy on Organisation Governance, which doesnt sound particularly exciting, but a time when this consultation is available to respond to and critique, it might be worth trying to take a long term view of what this government consultation might cause an organisation with strong values to become, and learn from the parallel history over the last 20 years of other third party organisations.

Gann, defines Organisations as: Creatures of their times, reflecting structures- philanthropic with good intentions (1991)

Handy defines a voluntary organisation as “ living communities with a common purpose, made up of free citizens with minds and values and rights of their own (1988:21)”

Handy argues that organisations should develop philosophies of practice which would, in his view, have no need for inheriting  political or engineering references to management and governance (such as Taylorism, Weberism, Fordism), stating that a community organisation should upheld community work values of democracy and problem solving. He infers that voluntary organisations should be more akin to what Morgan (1998) describes as an organisation that Creates social reality according to values, however the metaphor of organisations as an organisms is more appropriate, given that it could be argued that many have had to adapt, and adapt at the cost of their values, identity and purpose. But why has this been the case?

Adirondack on page 4 of Just about Managing suggests that organisation governance is a term for the “big picture, long term and legal aspects of ensuring an organisation is properly run”, and that Management is responsible for ensuring that the work gets done within the governance framework- but essentially that governance and management are different aspects of the same thing.  This is in line with Cornforth who states that Governance is concerned with: “the structures, systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, control and accountability of an organisation”(Cornforth 2004:1 in Billis 2010:72)

Policies are one such aspect of organisational governance, which although helpful, have caused a shift in organisation culture, and an access point to control and regulation by the government. However, in terms of the positives:

Polices are broadly helpful in defining the framework within an organisation operates (Adirondack(192:2005), providing clarity for what an organisation does, and how it does it. They help to create stability, and a base line for good practice. Not every aspect of an organisation requires written policies, but where there might be high levels of risk, or contention/argument, or for the adherence of professional practice, policies are created; notably in areas such as; the employment of staff, safeguarding, lone working, health & safety, and in specific examples values or conduct statements. Within the organisation governance, additional policies are used to identify suitable roles for Trustees, the charitable definition of the organisation itself, such as the constitution, its objects and how it should function legally.

Hussey and Perrin (86-88: 2003 in How to Manage a Voluntary organisation)  also add that Polices bring the visions and ideas created, to life, by describing in strategic and practical terms the outworkings of an organisation.  Policies of practice should be consistent with the aims and values of the organisation, more so they reveal the vision and values through the working documents.

How an organisation makes decisions, how it sets strategy, how its work complies with the strategy, and how it ensures that its performance is effective, safe and accountable.

“A policy is a guideline for organisational action and the implementation of goals and objectives. Policy is translated into rules, plans and procedures; it relates to all activities of the organisation and to all levels of the organisation.” (Mullins, L 537: 2010)

Negative impacts on an organisation governance include: The organisation becomes less about young people/community, and more time in compliance to policy, Young people/Community has less voice and involvement (Ord J, 113:2012)

Yet despite Handys recommendations in 1985, the language of structure, of managerialism, of control, accountability and order has been adopted in the discourse of organisational governance. This is highlighted as Handy (1985) bemoans the changes afoot (in 1985) of organisations that played down the importance of an individual – the gifted leader/manager, in favour of the more impersonal aspects such as organisational structure, control systems and policies, yet he goes on to describe the importance of the person as the manager in the ongoing decisions that they have to make in terms of demands, choices and constraints. (362:1985)

Butcher in Banks (2005) argues that Organisations, especially those supporting community practitioners, need to be thought of more as organisms than machines (p59;2005 (Banks et al)), this causes a rethink of the systems as open (rather than closed structural ones) and interaction with changing cultures and contexts and of growth, and evolution.

Policies themselves are subject to external influence and cultivate a situation whereby an organisation is changed through them; as identified by Butler and Wilson (1990:29) : The overall framework of the organisation and how the trustees, members and other governing body functions, and how the organisation relates to external legal authorities such as charities commission. Yet this is also a two way process, as “the Charity commission inserts pressure on organisations to adopt central control and hierarchical structures”. (Butler & Wilson, 1990:29)

However, The External Pressures on having policies which can be adapted from a central commission, as an adaptive organisation, has caused organisations to shift into a certain direction. As it changes it may become an ambiguous culture, that thinks community and fluid, but has to be governed in an increasingly bureaucratic way (Lewis, D 1999:195)- which has an effect on Values (see above) , Values  which as Mullins (2010) argues are part of an organisation ideology and thus its culture, and thus its outworking.

Butcher in 1993 seems slightly optimistic as he heralds a new relationship between right and left wing versions of post bureaucratic public service provision and democratic accountability. Yet the 18 years since have heralded 4 governments and an increase in control and regulation of organisations, via centralised commission and centralised policy for all participating organisations, using Macdonaldisation and related effective practices to imply a universality to local organisations.

However Somerville in 2011 articulates that there is now the disconnect between the community and the services which once served it, have now been affected by changes in policy, government policy and discourse.

The Governments partnership policy which is borne out of the neo-liberal ideology that promises a reduced state involvement, but high level of control, value for money and quality improvement and as Hart (2015) argues, an attuning of young peoples (or anyones) character to the needs of the market forces. I.e Community safety and employment.

Somerville goes on to concur stating that; “There is a subliminal restructuring in process which could cause community organisation to seek less to serve the actual needs, or be accountable to a local community more than view them as part of a service driven process or a target to fulfil” and concurred with by Milbourne in her article Remodelling the Third Sector (2009)

This will be particularly challenging in the poorer areas where community organisations rely heavily on public funding such as the North east, as greater controls, efficiencies, competition will occur, all having an effect on the nature and governance of organisations.

In this example, The government policy of developing state-private-community partnerships, and doing so with conditioned funding resources, has, through local government contracting, stating of funding objectives, has a direct influence on the procedures, objectives and practice and governance of an organisation.  An organisation which now has to comply with goverment ideology- for funding, and government structures practices in reward for funding, developed hierarchical structures, policies, practices and seeks efficient ways of ensuring outcome orientated practices for young poeple.

In quoting Barnes (2007) Somerville goes on to suggest that the governments policy documents have the power to constitute the language of their policy to fit their own needs, the rules of the engagement and participation – rather than have these agendas set and created by the community, or the community group themselves. In his example; the language of the formal partnership meeting was alien to the language of the community, and that the community often receives help and a service from a community organisation, as Taylor suggests (2003;12) The Community “does not decide the game that is being played; they do not determine the rules of play, the system of refereeing or, indeed, who plays, and the cards are stacked in favour of the more powerful players. In fact they are in the wrong game altogether”

The policy framework of the government could decide upon the legitimacy of those voices and modes of expression, and thus the power to decide whether to take account of the voices expressed. It is deemed a privaledged pathway which is controlled by shrouded knowledge of the path, and many organisations are excluded.

If the organisations that have subtley allowed the permission of the government ideology to affect their very nature, very management, policy, practices and thus have not heed Charles Handys warnings in 1985, and as organisms has been so affected by external conditions that they have become more bureaucratic, more managerial and view communities and receivers of a service and for the purposes of fulfilling a government ideology.

In a move that challenges the notion of Organisations and organisms;  Millar in Jeffs and Smith 2010, akin to Handy above,  argues that  management within Youth work should be representative of occupational youthwork culture of values, virtues and principles towards what Morgan would identify as an organisation that is metaphorically creating social reality.

However, this is also now under threat.

Organisations which have thus far withheld the temptation of public money, and retained strong nature according to values; whether youth and community values, whether values of faiths or none, and attempted to create social reality, for the sake of young people in their place in the community. Yes they may have had to register as charities in central bodies or affiliations, or as charities, but most of these transactions were only for the sake of minimal compliance, or local credibility. They have thus far resisted the heavy hand of new managerialism, outcomes and bureacracy for the sake of community, values and virtues.

Under the Prevent agenda, the Government now seeks to determine in their consultation paper (as above) , that all childcare and after school providers need to register with Ofsted, so that the provider is not only known to the authorities for DBS measures, but also so that the values of the organisation can be aligned to what could be determined as British Values. Yet British Values according to whom, actually thats not the point, the point is that even the organisations that have sought to create positive places and safe spaces with young people, were even spaces that young people flourish in a broad number of ways, and defined their practices in accordance with a range of values; whether Christian values, Muslim Values , youth & community work values and principles, are now under threat from a government that want to control what these values might be. And what could be the result ? – the gradual subliminal shaping  of value based organisations to adopt new managerialism, and further controls and bureaucracy and conduits of government ideology akin to the third sectors organisations who travailed that slope over the last 20 years and the legal threat of compliance.

All done within a discourse of fear, where the reaction is tighter control and regulation for what is deemed a common necessity and common sense, or at least that is what the rhetoric around it might suggest.

Ord (2012) suggests that both policy agenda and leadership agenda- or at least their discourses need to be critiqued and challenged. The policies themselves have power to shape the language and thus the discourse about the work, and bring in the realities of the work that they have to prescribe. Ord goes on to say how this occurs in teaching. Policies including inspections and Ofsted seek to ensure adherence to government policy and this again moves accountability away from the youth and community it seeks to serve. (p64; ord 2010)

So, whilst the rhetoric of the government, and its policies have emphasised the importance of community –stare partnerships  and a reduced state involvement in its neo liberal ideology, the emphasis on control via public bodies like the Charities commission , the rhetoric of social and partnership policy and the world of funding (which accentuate bureaucratic  hierarchical organisations) and no also recommendations of values, of centralised control, regulation and inspection will have a direct impact upon organisational policies, and the nature of an organisation, especially in how it relates to its community, according to its core values.

Yet community organisations that have adapted to changes, akin to the organism metaphor, have found themselves more at risk of becoming conduits for government ideology. Ord argues that any meaningful resistance will come from how organisations such as youthwork are managed within their political context .However now even organisations that have resisted interference (with strong values culture) will be enforced to comply legally with this new policy and adapt local organisational policies and governance as a result, and how might resistance be possible within controlled British Values?




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