Public Service Transformation and Changing Professionalism in Finland: Experiences from the Third Sector
Dep. of Sociology Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Research/University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
As part of their welfare strategies, municipalities in Finland have made increasing use of the third sector organizations in the provision of different kinds of welfare services. This is in accordance with broader changes taking place in Finnish welfare policies which have brought third sector organizations to the fore when talking about both policy development and the provision of public services. The situation has casted third sector organizations in the role which is in many ways confusing. On the other hand third sector organizations have more possibilities than before to use their expertise and also have influence over different matters. However, at the same time these organizations face increasing outside scrutiny and control by different public officials and authorities responsible for the funding and follow-up of the services. This paper critically examines how the situation has changed the working cultures and conditions of different kinds of social and health care professionals working in the third sector. Using ethnographic interview data gathered from the professionals working in the third sector I offer a view to the perceptions these workers attach to the current system and its operation. The key question is has the autonomy of third sector professionals eroded in the new situation where there exists an increasing pressure to work in partnerships with public officials. Secondly, what happens to the ?soft values? such as solidarity and caring, typically linked to the work done third sector, in the situation where the third sector professionals face an increasing pressure to ?sell? their expertise and services to the municipalities and convince them of the services effectiveness and usefulness.