Restructuring welfare-organizations: The power and powerlessness of local authorities

B.J.M. Emans*, M.J J van Tuuren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In an attempt to enhance the controllability of the many welfare organizations operating within its borders, the government of one of the Dutch provinces tried to impose a programme of mergers of those organizations, intended to result in no more than four mega-institutions. This process of decision making and implementation, which turned out to be unexpectedly exhausting for all parties involved, was analysed from the point of view of the government's power bases, as conceptualized by Mulder, de Jong, Koppelaar, and Verhagen (1986). Data collected by interviews revealed that the government, without being aware of this, was hampered by the deficiencies of most of its potential power bases. In many instances, it consequently demanded more from the organizations involved than it actually (psychologically) was entitled to do, and, provoking effective resistance by doing so, was forced continually to reconsider its decisions. The lesson that could be learned is, first, that the diagnosis and the build-up of a government's power bases (“power expansion”) should be part and parcel of the strategy of large scale renewal projects such as the one under study, and, second, that in order to achieve large scale change, governments should reduce their need of power as much as possible (“influence reduction”), by leaving the change to be realized maximally open to decision making and problem solving by the organizations involved. Furthermore, the data revealed a number of situational factors that undermined the different power bases of the government, and thus suggested some refinements of the theory of power bases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-161
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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