A Case Study of Casework Tinkering

Keywords: citizens with complex problems, casework, case studies, tinkering

Abstract

Citizens with complex problems are often in touch with different welfare services and administrative systems in order to receive the help, they need. Sometimes these services overlap and sometimes they conflict. The lack of ready-made services to match the complex, multiple, and often shifting needs of citizens with complex problems presents a challenge to caseworkers in the welfare system. In this article, we zoom in on the management of a single user´s case, in order to examine in detail how caseworkers nevertheless make casework ‘work’. We employ the concept of ‘tinkering’ to highlight the ad hoc and experimental way in which caseworkers work towards adjusting services to the unique case of such citizens. Tinkering has previously been used in studies of human-technology relations, among others in studies of care-work in the welfare system. In this paper, we employ the concept to capture and describe a style of working that, although not a formally recognized method, might be recognizable to many caseworkers in the welfare system. We show how tinkering involves the negotiation of three topics of concern, namely the availability of services, the potentials of services to be adjusted to the particular problems of the citizen, and finally, the potential for interpreting these problems and the citizen’s needs in a way that they match the service. We further demonstrate that casework tinkering involves both short-term and long-term negotiation of services. Firstly, tinkering is involved in the continual adjustment and tailoring of services to the immediate needs of the citizen, but secondly, it also speaks to a more proactive process of working towards a more long-term goal.

References

Andersen, D. (2015). Stories of change in drug treatment: a narrative analysis of 'whats' and 'hows' in institutional storytelling. Sociology of Health and Illness. 37(5):668-82

Bloche, M. G. and Cournos, F (1990). Mental health policy for the 1990s: tinkering in the interstices. Journal of Health Politics Policy Law, 15, 387–411.

Bjerge et al, forthcoming. Complex cases – complex policies.

Bjerge, B & M. Rowe. Inside the blackbox of public service change. Journal of Orgnanizational Ethnography. 6(2), 62-67

Brodkin, E. 2006. Bureaucracy Redux: Management Reformism and the Welfare State. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 17(1): 1-17.

Christensen, L. (2017). Metaphors of Change. Descriptions of changes within the practice of social work for socially marginalized people. Journal of Organizational Ethnography, 6(2), 62-67

Durose, C. 2011. Revisiting Lipsky: Front-line work in UK local governance. Political Studies. 59: 978-955.

Grommé, F. (2015). Turning Aggression into an Object of Intervention: Tinkering in a Crime Control Pilot Study. Science as Culture. Vol. 24(2): 227-247.

Gubrium, J. F. & Holstein, J. A. (2001). Institutional Selves: Troubled Identities in a Postmodern World. New York: Oxford University Press

Jenkins, R. (2000). Categorization: Identity, Social Process and Epistemology. Current Sociology, 48(3): 7-25

Knorr, K. D. (1979) Tinkering towards success: Prelude to a theory of scientific practice, Theory and Society. Vol. 8(3): 347–376.

Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-level bureaucracy. Dilemmas of the Public Services. New York, Russel Sage Foundation.

Lydahl, D. (2017). Same and different. Perceptions of the Introduction of Person-centred Care as Standard Healthcare. Gothenburg Studies in Sociology. Vol. 65. University of Gothenburg.

Mol, A., Moser, I., & Pols, J. (Eds.). (2010). Care in practice: On tinkering in clinics, homes and farms. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.

Nicolini, D. (2009). Zooming In and Out: Studying Practices by Switching Theoretical Lenses and

Trailing Connections. Organizational Studies, 30(12), 1391-1418

Nielsen , B. & E. Houborg (2015). Addiction, drugs and experimentation: Methadone maintenance treatment between 'in here' & 'out there'. Contemporary Drug Problems. 42(4); 274-288.

Oute, J.(2017) ‘It is a bit like Being a Parent’: A Discourse Analysis of how Nursing Identity can Contextualize Patient Involvement in Danish Psychiatry, Nordic Journal of Nursing Research, E-Pub ahead of print: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2057158517706314

Oute, J. & B. Bjerge. (2017) What Role Does Employment Play in Dual Recovery? A Qualitative Meta-Synthesis of Cross-Cutting Studies Treating Substance Use Treatment, Psychiatry and Unemployment Services, Advances in Dual Diagnosis, 10, 3: 105-119

Oute, J. & B. Bjerge. Forthcoming Ethnographic reflections on accessibility to care services

Payne, M. (2014) [1990]. Modern Social Work Theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Rossen, C. B. (2016). Pakkeudredning i det danske sundhedsvæsen : en analyse af udredningsprocesser i pakkeforløb: Ph.d.-afhandling. Odense: Institut for Regional Sundhedsforskning, Syddansk Universitet.

Spector, M. & J. I. Kitsuse (1977). Constructing Social Problems (Cummings series on contemporary sociology). Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company

Stax, T.B. (2003): Fordi ingen er ens – eller...? En analyse af tre hjemløse klienters strategier på et lokalcenter. Järvinen, M. & N. Mik-Meyer, N (eds.) At skabe en klient. København; Hans Reitzels Forlag,164-191.

Vohnsen, Nina Holm (2015) Street-level Planning: The Shifty Nature of “Local Knowledge and Practice”, Journal of Organizational Ethnography. Vol. 4(2): 147-161.

Vohnsen, N. H. (2017). The absurdity of bureaucracy. How implementation works. Manchester University Press

Winance, M. (2010) Care and disability. Practices of experimenting, tinkering with, and arranging people and technical aids in: Mol, A, Moser, J and Pols, J (eds). Care in practice. On tinkering in clinics, homes and farms, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 93-117

Published
2018-12-04
How to Cite
Nygaard-Christensen, M., Bjerge, B., & Oute, J. (2018). A Case Study of Casework Tinkering. Qualitative Studies, 5(2), 57-71. https://doi.org/10.7146/qs.v5i2.104419