Negotiating Ethical Dilemmas in Contested Communities

This research examined the way in which professional workers negotiate the conflicting interets, commitments and values of other professionals, decision-makers and local residents - taking account of their own professional values and commitments.

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About this project

The project explored the coping strategies which these 'street level' facilitators adopt and the resources which they employ in doing so - their own internal coping mechanisms as well as the external support systems they mobilise, (including the support which they obtain from their informal networks). The research specifically sought to highlight the emotional demands of this type of work, and the 'emotional labour' involved in working to the highest professional standards and values in these contested policy arenas, characterised as they tend to be by paradoxes, contradictions and conflicts of interest.

The researchers adopted a psycho-social research methodology, exploring both internal and external factors as these impact upon individuals' coping strategies. In two urban areas we conducted a series of interviews with a total of 40 front-line workers. These interviews with individuals were followed up by group inquiries. The project concluded with a workshop to bring respondents and researchers together to explore the findings and their implications.

Whilst the focus of this project was on those working in the field of urban regeneration, the findings may have wider relevance. Professionals in varying contexts face ethical dilemmas, as health and welfare services are increasingly subjected to marketisation, with competing pressures to achieve centrally determined targets whilst responding to users in the contexct of the new 'localisation.'

This research was a joint project between CUCR and colleagues at the Centre for Psycho-Social Studies, University of the West of England in Bristol, Professor Paul Hoggett and Dr Chris Miller. The project started in September 2003 and was completed in November 2005. The total budget for this project was £121,000.

ESRC published outputs

Articles and chapters published so far

Hoggett, P. (2005a) `Radical uncertainty: human emotion and ethical dilemmas', in A.Moran & S.Watson (ed.) ‘Trust, Risk and Uncertainty,’ Palgrave Macmillan.

Hoggett, P. (2005b) `A service to the public: the containment of ethical and moral conflicts by public bureaucracies', in P.Du Gay (ed.) ‘The Values of Bureaucracy,’ Oxford University Press

Articles accepted for publication

Hoggett, P., Beedell, P., Jimenez, L., Mayo, M. & Miller, C. (2006) `Identity, life history and commitment to welfare', Journal of Social Policy, 35, 4.

Mayo, M., Hoggett, P. & Miller, C. (2006), 'Capacities of the capacity builders: should training frameworks include ethical and emotional dimensions?' in J.Diamond, J., Southern, A., Liddel, J. & Townsend, A. (eds.), Managing the City, (London: Routledge)

Hoggett, P., Mayo, M & Miller, C. (2007) `Individualization and ethical agency', in Howard, C. (ed.) ‘Contested Individualization: Debates About Contemporary Personhood. Palgrave-Macmillan.

Mayo, M., Hoggett, P. & Miller, C (2007) 'Ethics, ethical dilemmas, the public service ethos and caring', in Balloch, S. & Hill, M. (eds.) ‘Care, Citizenship and Communities: Research and Practice in a Changing Policy Context, Bristol: Policy Press.

Miller, C., Hoggett, P. & Mayo, M., 'The impact of the regulatory environment on the emotions and identities of public service professionals working in complexity and contestation', the International Journal of Work, Occupations and Emotion.

Hoggett, P., Mayo.M. & Miller, C., 'Private Passions and public interests,' Social Policy and Administration.

Hoggett, P., Miller, C.and Mayo, M. “Relations of Authority” Organisational and Social Dynamics

Contact at CUCR: Marj Mayo, e-mail or telephone 0207 919 7220.