Service Professionals’ Response to Volunteer Involvement in Service Production

Source: Mette Kjærgaard Thomsen, Ulrich Thy Jensen, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, Published: October 15, 2019
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From the abstract:
Involving volunteers in the production and delivery of public services is a core policy objective of governments around the world. While existing research on volunteer involvement in service production, for example, has focused on advantages and disadvantages of such involvement and different dimensions of volunteer involvement, little is known about service professionals’ response to volunteer involvement in public service production. Integrating perspectives from multiple theories, we build a theoretical framework for understanding how and when service professionals come to see volunteers as a threat to the quality of service, the profession’s privileged position and monopoly, and professionals’ own work tasks and job security. Based on a central distinction between production of core and complementary tasks, we propose that volunteers come to be seen as a threat in the eyes of service professionals when volunteers solve core rather than complementary tasks. Using a survey experiment among health assistants at nursing homes, we find partial support for our argument. Health assistants are more likely to perceive volunteers as a threat to the quality of care when volunteers solve core rather than complementary tasks. The study guides research toward a more nuanced understanding of volunteer involvement in service production in public organizations.