Achieving Socially Inclusive Practice: Analyzing Power Dynamics in a Participatory Approach to Service Development

By Sarah Pollock and Ann Taket.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Organizational Studies

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The paper is concerned with what works and why in relation to socially inclusive practice in diverse community services settings. Drawing on the findings from a research study involving a participatory evaluation and service development project in a large community services organisation in Melbourne, Australia, the paper asserts that organisations can become more inclusive by paying attention to the ways in which they perpetuate existing oppression and by intentionally challenging associated limiting power/knowledge formations. The study was situated in rights-based approaches to health and social development and drew on Foucauldian conceptualizations of power that see the point of operation of power as the point of resistance, and therefore containing the possibility for change. The researchers worked in three diverse service contexts: children and families experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, and older people with a history of homelessness and exclusion. The ongoing analysis of the power relations between and within the different stakeholder groups was important in ensuring that the development of the process did not reinscribe oppression and marginalization. Within the growing body of work that theorizes participatory and inclusive practices, the application of a Foucauldian framework offers new insights for anti-oppressive practice in the context of service development.

Keywords: Participatory evaluation, Community services, Discourse analysis, Social inclusion, Power

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Organizational Studies, Volume 8, Issue 2, December 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 433.670KB).

Dr Sarah Pollock

Manager, Strategic Projects, Mind Australia, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Prof. Ann Taket

Director of the Centre for Health through Action on Social Exclusion, School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia