Organizing knowledge and decision-making at the frontline of public services

On 15th January 2019, RURU and the Knowledge & Practice Thematic Group in The School of Management (K&P) hosted a seminar for staff and doctoral students exploring how different types of knowledge are utilized in front-line public services. Our main speaker, who gave a wonderful presentation (see details below), was Anne Mette Møller from Copenhagen. Anne laid out some fascinating findings from her doctoral work on the complex processes of decision making in social work child protection. Making a first set of observations in response, we are indebted to Professor Kevin Orr from K&P for kicking off a deep set of discussions. The session was then rounded off by two near-completion doctoral students from K&P – Tricia Tooman and Anne-Marie Craig – who each reflected on what they had heard and intersections with their own emerging findings. Overall, a fascinating set of data presented and a very supportive environment for deeper discussions. Download a copy of Anne’s slides here.

A routine matter? Organizing knowledge and decision-making at the frontline of public services

Anne Mette Møller, Copenhagen

Abstract: Every day, professionals in public service organizations – schools, hospitals, police stations, welfare offices and child protective agencies – make decisions which may profoundly impact the lives of the citizens they serve. However, we still have a limited understanding of how different forms and sources of knowledge are mobilized to inform decision-making and, particularly, how these processes are organized in everyday practice. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in three local child protective agencies in Denmark as well as documentary sources and interviews with political actors in the field, my PhD thesis takes a dual perspective, exploring everyday practices of knowledge mobilization and decision-making and tracing connections between these practices and ongoing debates about evidence-based practice in the policy arena. The contribution of the thesis is twofold: First, it develops a theoretically informed and empirically grounded analysis how knowledge is mobilized to inform decision-making in everyday practice, showing how knowledge mobilization is intricately related to, and shaped by, a particular type of organizational routines. Second, it engages with the literature on changing forms of public professionalism, showing how the debates over ‘evidence-based practice’ have spurred the development of new normative standards for public professional practice, which are now widely recognized in the field. The concept ‘explicit professionalism’ is proposed to capture the essence of this new ideal.

Anne Mette Møller holds an MSc Degree in Sociology and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Prior to embarking on her PhD, she worked as an evaluation consultant for public organizations on all levels of government and NGOs. Her broader research interests include public organization and management, professional knowledge and practice, and organizational ethnography.

You can download and read a copy of Anne’s PhD thesis here.