Interagency collaboration is increasingly prevalent in welfare contexts due to the current pressure for integrating different professional domains around desired effects on citizens’ life and well-being. In the context of prison service this is equally important, due to the complexity in the constellation of actors that come into contact with a citizen before, during and after imprisonment. Drawing on a combination of neo-institutional theory (DiMaggio & Powell in The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1991) and sensemaking theory (Weick in Sensemaking in Organizations. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1995), we investigate an example of how “the Norwegian import model” enables actors to make sense of their work in a way that enables a practice of “living with” contradictions. Based on empirical data produced as part of the COLAB project, this chapter analyses the interagency collaboration of staff and management in a Norwegian low-security prison where professionals target the inmates’ education, health care, sports & leisure, faith and social services. The chapter identifies some key local practices, which underpin the collaboration across sectors and professions. These three practices are narrative practices, practices related to tools and documents, and shared meetings.
Cross-professional collaboration is increasingly prevalent in welfare contexts due to the current pressure for integrating different professional domains around desired effects on citizens’ life, well-being and participation. In the context of this demand for greater cross-professional collaboration, it becomes important to understand the specific practices, which can sustain this.
This chapter explores how collaboration can take place between actors who are simultaneously affected by social processes in different arenas. These actors’ norms and regulations do not just develop within the prison where they interact, they also develop in other arenas. These other arenas can be different professions, institutional fields, sectors, or even organisations. Based on this reasoning we will use the terms cross-professional, cross-institutional, cross-sectoral, and cross-organisational as interchangeable. Our assertion is that the insights from the chapter are equally relevant to all of the above types of collaboration.
Based on empirical data produced as part of the COLAB project (see Chapter 1 of this volume), this chapter explores how the staff and management of a low-security prison and professionals, engaged in work activity related to the inmates’ education, health care, sports & leisure, faith and social services, collaborate. In particular, the chapter explores which practices can support the cross-organisational collaboration afforded by the Norwegian import model. The chapter identifies some of the key features of these local practices which underpin this process seen through the lens of sensemaking theory (Weick, 1995; Weick et al., 2005).
Drawing on a combination of neo-institutional theory (DiMaggio & Powell, 1991) and sensemaking theory, we investigate an example of how “the Norwegian import model” enables actors to make sense of their work in a way that facilitates collaboration. This is not a new ambition; other scholars have called for a greater attention to how different institutional logics integrate in daily practice (Pache & Santos, 2013). To the extent that neo-institutional studies have been undertaken, they have focused on how a contradiction between logics is addressed, either by keeping logics separate or by some form of compromise or reconciliation between these (Tracey et al., 2011). Our analysis, however, finds that the encounters in the prison can better be understood as a “living with” different professional logics (Austin et al., 2018). We find that the professionals in the prison—rather than keeping logics separate or attempting to unify or compromise logics internally—have developed a number of practices in which logics can live with each other. Notably, while compromising requires the confrontation of the differences between institutional logics and ultimately changing the respective professional logics, “living with” does not imply modifying the respective professional logics. Rather it implies nurturing an openness of each professional towards the possibility that “the key” for solving problems around the inmates may lie in unexpected places and may require the problem to be framed in another professional domain. We suggest that a condition for this “living with” is that professional logics are not primarily made sense in relation to each other but in parallel, which leaves space for a non-hierarchical configuration, where one logic does not dominate the other. We outline three types of practices within the prison that enable actors, in this case, to sidestep and collaborate with actors from other institutional fields.
“Institutional logics” is a theoretical construct that helps us grasp the organising principles for a field (Friedland & Alford, 1991), the taken-for-granted rules that guide the behaviour of professionals—or the “belief systems and related practices that predominate in an organisational field” (Scott, 2001, referred in Reay & Hinings, 2009, p. 529).
According to DiMaggio and Powell (1991), we would expect organisations straddling several institutional fields to be exposed to conflicting institutional isomorphic forces. Isomorphic forces push organisations within the same field into becoming more homogenous in order to be perceived as legitimate (ibid.).
In this chapter, we will use the lens of sensemaking theory to explore how the local processes of organising are affected by different institutional pressures. Institutional fields and local sensemaking processes can be understood as mutually constitutive. On the one hand, institutional fields may provide overarching ideas, which actors in a local context may enact as relevant to organising their interactions. On the other hand, sense made through local interactions may spread and become institutionalised, as “sensemaking is the feedstock for institutionalization” (Weick, 1995, p. 36).
Organisational Sensemaking and Collaboration
Sensemaking theory examines the ongoing movement of actions and meanings (Weick 1969/1979, 1995, 2001; Sandberg & Tsoukas, 2015). The analysis of the three practices we observed in the prison context draws on Weick’s concept of the processes of organising which emphasies how actions shape meaning and thus the way services are organised. We are interested in the link between joint action/collaboration in the organisational setting of the prison and meaning made there. Weick (1995) suggests that these are linked by the concept of organising: “Organising happens when meaning created through one interaction is generalised and used to make sense of another specific situation” (Murphy, 2015, p 154 own translation summarising Weick, 1995 inspired by Wiley, 1988, Weick, 2004, Weick et al., 2005). We will examine practices through which actors in the prison made sense of their professional work while being exposed to the overlap of multiple institutional logics that the import model of Norwegian prison care provision had created.
Empirical Case: The Norwegian Import Model in the Rehabilitation Prison
The empirical context of the present study is a Norwegian low-security rehabilitation prison. The prison houses approximately 60 prisoners serving longer sentences of an average of 3–7 years.
The overall task of the Norwegian prison service is to “ensure a proper execution of remand and prison sentences, with due regard to the security of all citizens” and simultaneously “prevent recidivism by enabling the offenders, through their own initiatives, to change their criminal behaviour”.Footnote 1 Hence, the prison service works with a dual focus of implementation of detention and punishment on the one hand and in the long term achieving security for society by preventing criminal acts now and in the future. To accomplish this, the prison service collaborates closely with regional and local public agencies to create the conditions for prisoners to change their life trajectory; i.e. changes related to the inmates’ education, socio-economic status and health.
The prevalent way of securing collaboration between Norwegian prison and welfare services is through the Norwegian Import model (Fridhov & Langelid, 2017). It involves two (or more) formally separate organisations weaving together in terms of daily practice at a specific location by means of a practical arrangement, where a desk from one organisation (e.g. the health services) is physically placed in another (the prison services).
The chosen empirical delimitation of the studied group of actors is the physical location of the prison. It corresponds to the “we” frequently used by the professionals in the study and includes actors who share daily practices. This “we” includes a number of actors who work part of the week at the prison, but who are employed by other formal organisations located elsewhere. That is, they are hired, paid and can be fired by managers not employed by the local prison. By focusing the empirical study on interaction undertaken on a specific local prison we revert to a classical definition of “the organisation” similar to the one used by Taylor (1916/2011) and Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939). They implicitly define the organisation as the “plant”—encompassing actors undertaking activities at a specific location.
Data Collection and Ethical Considerations
The empirical basis for this paper stems from qualitative interviews conducted with prison officers (n = 3), general health care service professionals (n = 3), mental health care professionals (n = 3), a teacher, priest and social worker, workshop mangers and prison management (n = 4), supplemented with observations and informal conversations emerging during the research team’s stay in the prison. In addition, interviews with prisoners were carried out (n = 5). Interviews of an average duration of 45–60 min were recorded and transcribed afterwards. All interviews were conducted as semi-structured interviews, investigating the work practices of professionals and the intersections between these.
Conducting research in a prison context requires careful deliberation with regard to ethical considerations. Whether the researcher is present as an interviewer or as an observer, it requires ethical considerations since both are essentially participatory (Czarniawska-Joerges, 2007) in the sense that they invariably affect local interaction. A central concern in conducting the research, both in the interviews and the numerous informal conversations between researchers and participants, has been to respect the potential vulnerability of both the prisoners as well as the officers. Activities were conducted in accordance with the rules outlined by the Norwegian Data Protection Agency. Participants have been informed about the purpose of the study and how the material would be used, i.e. that only the researchers would have access, and that data was only gathered for the purpose of the research project.
The study was part of the COLAB project, the objective of which was to explore the relevance of the Change Laboratory model (Engeström, et al., 1996), as an intervention framework through which researchers could facilitate organisational learning in the prison, driven by interaction and learning together with “others”, within the criminal justice setting. The idea is that the mirroring and reflection on disturbances and shared analysis of contradictions between distinct activity systems can facilitate expansive learning (see Chapter 8 of this volume). However, what struck us as we spent time on site in the Norwegian prison was the extent to which actors at the prison were capable of overcoming conflicts and difficulties in interagency collaboration by themselves. So, the emphasis of our focus shifted, and we were increasingly curious about the practices that had emerged locally to manage cross-professional collaborations and what they had already learnt to do. The following questions arose: Do they engage in continuous conflicts over institutional logics? Do they avoid conflicts by decoupling practices and sensemaking about them? Do they negotiate compromises between multiple institutional logics?
Initially we performed an analysis informed by the grounded theory approach (Glaser & Straus, 2017) of the transcribed interviews and field notes from observations. We examined cross-professional interaction and ways of talking about them. We were looking for indications of compromise, decoupling, or other ways of bending professional logics towards each other. The analysis will show that we mainly found something else which we have called “living with”. This led us to ask the following question: Through which practices of sensemaking is this “living with” allowed to exist? Hence, our research focus in the analysis became:
Which practices are pivotal in underpinning shared sensemaking processes that enable actors to collaborate despite different institutional logics ?
We found a number of aspects of the practice that the actors have developed and we group these aspects into three types of mutually constitutive or interrelated practices (Fig. 4.1):
1. Narrative practices; including a modular vision, the practice of double vision and the use of translatable/pliable metaphors. 2. Practices around tools & documents. 3. Patterns of cross-professional meetings.
In the following, we explore how these three types of practices are mutually constitutive. When combined, these underpin the collaboration and enable professionals to “live with” professional logics that are not primarily made sense of in relation to each other but in parallel, leaving space for a non-hierarchical configuration.
Narratives and Metaphors
The analysis shows that there are three aspects of narrative practices, which are pivotal to the collaboration across multiple institutional logics. First, a modular vision (the term is explained below) functions as an umbrella for and leveller of the various professions. Secondly, for some actors this shared modular vision is a vehicle for “living with” competing logics by the practice of double vision. Thirdly, there is widespread use of pliable metaphors for the shared activities, which lend themselves to translations into multiple logics.
A Modular Vision
In the studied prison, the actors from diverse professions, formal organisations, and institutional fields and their different institutional logics “live with each other” through the development of a narrative practice that render all activities and actors equally important. We suggest that this may be called a “modular” narrative. When we look up definitions of the word modular the following comes up:
Something, as a house or piece of furniture, built or organised in self-contained units or sections. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/modular)
Consisting of separate modules; especially where each module performs or fulfils some specified function and could be replaced by a similar module for the same function, independently of the other modules. (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/modular)
From the various observations and interviews, we found that the actor who had the most central role in making sense of the collaboration in the prison was the local manager of the prison. He was responsible for managing the rehabilitation within the prison. The regional manager, who had also his office at the prison, could also have had a significant role in the sensemaking process. However, the vision, which the local manager narrated, was the one that was widely quoted and drawn on when other actors made sense of their shared activities. Furthermore, the local manager had a frequent interaction with the actors at the local prison, which was far greater than the more sporadic interaction of the regional manager. Therefore, in the analysis below, we concentrate on the local manager’s version of the vision for the prison.
The local manager saw it as his job to narrate the vision for the prison repeatedly in interaction with all actors and inmates on site. He was explicit about his job as sense giver, or “culture cultivator” as he conceptualised it. He states that
culture is a perishable good; we have to work to recreate it all the time (Interview with local manager)
It is the primary vision for the rehabilitation in the prison that they The most important task of the prison is to reintroduce inmates back into society in a proper way. So that they have a platform to start from and can experience a safe release… We have a local vision that says: “apprenticeship to better life-mastering” (oplæring til bedre livsmestring). The cooperation between areas where the inmate experiences mastering, which we can use in several arenas… It is the sum of all efforts and the process, which the inmate has been in… it can be in relation to his crime, it can be in relation to network, it can be in relation to his private finances. Really, many, many different… arenas. (Interview with local manager)
It is the primary vision for the rehabilitation in the prison that they achieve their goal through work in the many arenas. This seems to be uncontested and widely shared. Subsequent interviews with a range of actors working on site and the regional manager reveal a remarkably homogeneous view of the vision—all interviewees repeat more or less the same vision. They are all able to expand on the vision and relate it to their own day-to-day activities. Therefore, the vision does seem to organise (Weick, 1995; Murphy, 2015) activities and sensemaking for all professions irrespective of their different institutional logics.
A modular narrative is unusual. Consider narratives of how a large hospital functions. It is likely that the narrative would narrate a hierarchy placing for example a diagnostic laboratory like radiology below the ones performing treatments such as surgical departments.
The conceptualisation of working in many different arenas is key here. The metaphor that inmates travel through a number of arenas creates a modular image. It is easy to see each arena as having different sub-goals, as working through different tools with different logics. Hence, the modular metaphor lends itself to making sense of collaboration across multiple institutional narratives.
Importantly, the arenas are narrated as concurrent and not sequenced. There is not one of the arenas, which is emphasised as taking precedence over another. The narrative relates the arenas to each other by emphasising that the inmate’s development to freedom may start by mastering any of the arenas, and that progress in one arena will help progress in others.
The arenas are also narrated as being self-contained. They are not seen as being independent, but the professionals emphasise that the inmate can master one and not another arena independently. From this, it follows that the approaches and logics in one arena do not need to be coordinated with the logics in another in order to co-exist, i.e. the narrative vehicle allows the professional logics to exist side by side.
The modular narrative reflects no desire to create compromises between arenas or merge them into one. On the contrary, prisoners focusing on mastering different life arenas is assumed to work precisely because of their self-contained nature, which ensures that the inmate will meet a range of different approaches to rehabilitation. If one arena doesn’t work, there is a good chance that another will. It is the diversity of logics and practices that is thought to be the virtue of the system. This also means that the exact methods employed by the health care workers can be replaced and decided locally by them. It does not need to be agreed upon and coordinated with actors associated with other arenas. The overall effect is that the modular vision creates a tolerance for and reproduction of institutional diversity. The shared modular vision is centred on the citizen, in this case, the inmate, in a way that does not position one profession as being more important to another.
The Use of Double Vision
The question arises as how actors in the prison then make sense of their work, drawing on both their own specific professional logic and the shared modular vision. Austin et al. (2018) studied the mechanism through which actors who operate in contexts with multiple institutional logic cope. They identified a number of different scenarios:
Conflict: Actors will engage in conflicts with each other over whose logic is most appropriate.
Compromise: Actors can create a compromise, a new local logic blended from different institutional logics. The compromise then replaces the mono-professional logics.
Decoupling: Actors can decouple their logics by hiding and not drawing on their own professional logic but adhering to the dominant logic of the organisation.
We found that in this study case, actors create a fourth option: they develop “double vision” which enables them to “live with” multiple logics simultaneously. Everybody seems to have made an effort over time to create meaning that bridges a variety of institutional logics with a shared modular vision. One of the ways of doing this was to position the shared vision (the rehabilitation of the offender) as the primary goal. The dictates of the institutional logic are a parallel goal. The prison therefore operates with a double vision. This is what the local manager is doing in the quote below:
… and then of course that the execution of the punishment which we have here is undertaken in a safe and responsible way. (Interview with local manager)
When he says: “…and then of course…”, this is his way of acknowledging that the administration of punishment and ensuring the security of the public and prison staff is also a goal of the prison.
One of the ways these multiple goals are able to co-exist is by a double vision working through an uneven distribution of attention to the multiple goals. Punishment and ensuring the security of the public are not given much attention in the interviews. Neither employees nor management draws on the punitive vision to make sense of their own activities. They draw on a resocialisation vision. Their focus is on facilitating a development process that leads to the inmates’ mastering of more areas of their lives in preparation for their release.
An aspect of this that enables the co-existence of logics is not using the single professional logic as a resource in sensemaking about the job and organisation, but instead drawing on the shared vision. If the local manager primarily used the institutional logic of the prison service as a narrative resource or cue in his sensemaking, he would be expanding on his identity as someone who keeps society safe. He emphasises control when making sense of his actions and when asked about a challenge he is particularly proud of handling, it related to punishment and security. In parallel, however, he is able to help inmates master life skills. We found a similar pattern of double vision and “living with” multiple logics among the other professions.
Another narrative mechanism which feeds sensemaking processes that can sustain cross-institutional collaboration is the use of pliable metaphors. The metaphors are pliable in the sense that they can be moulded and appropriated into different logics. An example of a pliable metaphor is “finding the key”.
… Sometimes we struggle to find that key.” Interviewer: “Yes, and what can it be, that key?” Local manager: “No, well it can be very different things. Because it is, what I sometimes think is a strength, because that - pause – sometimes it is leisure time or it is the prison ward who finds it. Sometimes it is the school, sometimes it is the car workshop or (the name of the social worker), right? (Interview with local manager)
The metaphor “finding the key” can easily be appropriated into a number of logics. It basically means to succeed or make progress on whatever terms are dominant in that institutional field, the same as the expression “to master”. Actors from different professions also use the metaphor “family” and position themselves as “parents”. The metaphors are pliable since they lend themselves to being translated into something meaningful in many different logics. As long as actors do not emphasise details about what the key is or exactly how the inmates show that they “master” an arena, or exactly what a “parent” does, they are able to feel like a unit.
The modular vision, double vision, and the use of pliable metaphors are all parts of the narrative practice that enables different professionals working in the prison regularly together to make sense of their collaboration.
Tools, Documents and Related Practices
Tools and documents appeared to be central to the practices, which underpinned cross-institutional collaboration. We identified a number of different types of tools and documents used in the prison context. These included written guidelines or concepts developed as tools for various interventions into the development of the inmate. These included screening tools to be used for example in risk assessment (see Chapters 10 and 11 of this volume), tools for documenting the development of the inmate on various parameters, and “structuring” documents laying out guidelines, e.g. for meetings.
We make a distinction between three types of tools enacted as being (1) uni-professional (for exclusive use by one profession), (2) multi-professional (laying out a number of professions fulfilling each their role) or (3) pan-professional (not associated exclusively with any one profession or institutional logic). The two later tools are described in more detail below since they are particularly interesting in regard to enabling cross-professional practice.
Multi-professional Structuring Documents
The cross-institutional collaboration in the prison was structured by a number of documents. One key document sets out the framework of the Responsibility Group Meeting (RGM). The purpose of these meetings is explained in the quote from the document below.
“Agenda for Responsibility Group” Meetings (RGM)
The RGMs are the inmate’s meetings and are held to support the inmate and his rehabilitation process. The goal of the meeting is to give the RGM a better insight into the situation of the inmate, and a good understanding of his goals. It structures the work, and improves cooperation internally and externally.”
The shared vision for the prison, as mentioned above, is to help inmates master the different arenas of their lives. The RGMs are enacted as being important events where progress on prisoners’ set goals are discussed and plans for future progress made. The meetings are held approximately a month after arrival, before the release, and every three months during the inmates’ time at the prison.
Each prison officer functions as contact for four inmates. The written instructions for the RGMs states that these “contact officers” chair the meetings for their inmates. He or she invites key stakeholders to the meeting, sets the agenda together with the inmate and writes minutes from the meetings. Our observations and interviews indicated that the practice at the RGMs generally did reflect these instructions. According to the RGM framework document, the participants invited by the contact officer are: The inmate, a representative from the prison workshop where the inmate works, the school, leisure, health care, a social worker and other relevant parties. The document also outlines that all of those areas should be given consideration at the meeting. It is therefore a multi-professional structuring document.
The document structures collaboration in two ways: (1) it ensures that a variety of professions meet regularly and (2) it outlines that they all have something equally important to contribute.
We found another example of a multi-professional structuring document in the shape of the admissions form. This form is the basis for deciding whether to allow a transfer of an inmate from a higher security prison to the lower security rehabilitation prison.
We observed an occasion of a nurse and a social worker pouring over a new guide to intervention conversations with inmates who had slipped back into at least one instance of substance abuse. The written guide itself was not associated with a specific profession, and these two local actors did not recognise it as such. This tool was thus enacted as a pan-professional tool for intervention.
The analysis above leads us to believe that the use of multi- and pan-professional tools and documents can underpin sustained collaboration to a higher extent than tools and documents, which are enacted uniprofessionally. Further research into this area should be encouraged.
We are using the term “being enacted as” rather than “being” to emphasise that the effect of drawing on a tool or document is not given by the physical attributes of the artefact in itself but is produced through the social process of enacting the attributes of the artefact. Consider for example the tool of introducing meetings with prisoners where they reflect on their needs and plans (so-called intervention conversations). These could be enacted by nursing staff alone, as a mono-professional tool, the outcome of which could be shared with social workers, for instance, but to which the latter could make no contribution or challenge. However, the same tool was instead enacted as a pan-professional tool in which social workers, nurses and the offender worker together during these interventions, which became a key element of their shared collaborative practice.
Is it enacted as a pan-professional tool or as a mono-professional tool? This can of course be explicitly stated on the artefact, but we would still contend that the key practice is the enactment of the tool.
Pattern of Meetings
We have already touched upon the patterns of interaction in the analysis above. In this section, we examine further this third aspect of the shared practice: Who meets whom and how often?
Actors with different professional backgrounds met frequently: They have desks at the prison, often in the same building. They eat lunch together. They participate in social activities together with each other and with the inmates. They meet in clusters as ordered by the perceived needs of the inmates in connection with the RGMs. They have “faggruppemøter”, which are cross-professional meetings held at the production workshops where prisoners worked during the day. Farming, auto mechanics, the kitchen, professionals from the school, and the social services get together on a weekly basis and discuss each inmate’s situation and progress. They have Monday morning meetings. The local manager explains that there is a representative from each department at these meetings. Formally, Monday morning meetings do not include employees not employed and paid by the prison. However, representatives from the imported services—such as the school and health services—are also present. This indicates that besides the formal organisational chart, there is a “ghost”-chart which includes and integrates the imported functions and in effect organises the work at the prison.
The Prisoner Forum is another multi-professional meeting. It is a closed forum meeting that impacts the other shared practices in the prison, in that it is a primary formal and actual decision-making forum. Actors do not take ownership of the decisions of this forum. They just treat them as fait-a-complis. The forum decides on prisoners’ requests for early release, leave and other permissions.
Overall there is much and frequent interaction across the many professions who work in the prison. School advisors/teachers, health care services (nurses) and the prison officers seem to be the ones who are the most integrated into patterns of interaction. This in spite of the codes of confidentiality under which health care operate. The priest is also quite integrated and is for example sometimes invited to RGMs by the inmate. He has a desk in the prison, but also operates under comprehensive codes of confidentiality that restricts the communication about the prisoners with other professionals. The priest is a less frequent participant in meetings. The doctor is far less integrated in the patterns of interaction although he works in the prison on a regular basis. This may be due to his higher wage and the time constraints that shape his workday. The librarian also has a desk in the prison and is employed elsewhere, but he or she does not appear in any of our data.
So, the pattern of interaction is characterised by widespread and frequent interaction across professional boundaries. The following notes are from the Sunday coffee chat with the advisor from the school:
- School advisor::
We have worked at it since I started in ’95–96. We bring each other on trips with the inmates all the time. We have respect and knowledge about each other’s areas of expertise. …
Well, I think that you need shared experiences, to develop a shared culture.
- School advisor::
Exactly! We go on trips together all the time. And we see each other SO often. We have Christmas lunch together as we did last week, we “hygger” (have a cosy time together). We do so much together, and we talk so much across all employees. And then we have all these meetings together. The RGMs are really important. That is where we hear each other’s thoughts about the inmate. We have “faggruppemøter” every day where I go in turn to one of the four different workshops with one of the social workers. There we talk about the inmates who work there. That means that we get to talk about all the inmates once a week. Then we agree on what we say to the inmates. They get the same message regardless of whether they go to their contact officer or to a health care worker or to the workshop foreman or to me at the school (Interview with educational advisor).
Their pattern of interaction is in part aimed at sharing information about the inmates and ensuring a unified strategy and response towards the inmate across professions. The meaning they attach to the importance of an unified response to the inmates is twofold: first it is to ensure that they apply pressure and support in an unified way to be able to reach the inmate as much as possible. But, second, it is also to avoid that the inmates “divide and rule” by playing actors out against each other.
The analysis has identified three shared practices (Fig. 4.1), which have been central to sustaining collaboration within the prison. One is the narrative practice of reproducing a modular vision, the use of double vision and pliable metaphors, which lend themselves to translation into multiple institutional logics. The second is a use of pan-professional tools and documents that are not explicitly linked to any singular profession, and the use of multi-professional tools and documents, which are explicitly linked to a range of different professions. The third is the pattern of shared meetings. These three practices have not emerged in isolation, and they are not sustained in isolation. They are all mutually constitutive meaning these practices mutually shape each other in essential ways.
The sensemaking perspective helps us be more attentive to how the three practices shape each other. This is illustrated by the double arrows in Fig. 4.1. The first arrow is between meetings and narratives/metaphors. The pliable metaphors and modular narratives create a sense that we, as professionals, are in this together. This legitimises spending time and resources on a pattern of frequent shared cross-professional meetings. The pattern of shared meetings is not only sustained by the shared metaphors and narratives but in turn, the meetings also sustain these shared narratives. This happens through the mechanism of actions driving meaning (Weick, 1995). In this case, repeated shared actions (e.g. meetings) are places where shared retrospective and prospective sensemaking about collaboration take place and where being a “we” is expressed through the metaphors and narratives.
The second arrow is between the pattern of meetings and the tools and documents. The tools and documents are used to order the pattern of meetings. They outline which professions are expected to contribute at which meeting and how. Conversely, the tools and documents only affect actions if they are enacted (followed) and not ignored at meetings. So the actions at meetings affect the status and importance of documents and tools.
The last double arrow is between narratives and tools/documents. The meaning attached to the tools and documents is shaped by and through the shared language (narratives and metaphors). Conversely, the tools and documents also affect the narratives because they act as indicators of the nature of the cooperation between professions. In this manner, the three practices are continuously shaped and reshaped by each other in an ongoing process. There is not any single factor, which precedes and decisively shapes the others.
The purpose of the analysis was to examine which practices enable the dual process of sensemaking and collaborating across institutional logics. We found three mutually co-constituting aspects of the practice developed in the prison, which together provide a way to straddle multiple institutional logics.
As already indicated, we suggest that the practice developed is characterised by multiple institutional logics “living with each other” rather than being a compromise or negotiated blending. As emphasised by Austin et al. (2018), in many approaches to organisational analysis, different logics need to be resolved, perhaps by one prevailing over the other (Eikhof & Haunschild, 2007). However, Austin et al. propose that an open attitude towards rendering conflicting influences “conversant” (i.e. co-existing without resorting to compromise), is more productive than attempting to resolve the conflict. To be “conversant” is to include another’s work as part of one’s own. This is very different from compromise, they stress, since the latter resolves conflict by modifying (usually, reducing) one’s own objective in order to allow that the other might also attempt to realise a diminished version of his or her objective. “Other” and “own” are overcome in the ensemble (Austin et al., 2018, p. 1515).
We find that the way the practices identified in the prison “live with each other” in some respects resonate with Austin et al.’s findings on how different logics may become conversant. However, there are also important differences: When analysing the mechanisms through which the two logics of economy and aesthetics can live with each other in the same organisation, Austin et al. suggest that this happens through a shared insistence that no one owns the work, that roles given to the representatives are not confining and that actors speak on behalf of each other. There should further be a shared commitment to frequent, shared conversations and parity of status between actors and that any outcomes of cooperation/negotiation between the parties maintain the values/qualities that are deemed important by the respective logics. Hereby conflicting logics meet in conversation without either being dulled or compromised. Each contributes a special point of view, together creating a new vision. This is the equivalent of an orchestra, the symphony they create being the product of the contribution of each individual musician and their instrument.
However, in the prison, it was not a conscious strategy for the actors in our case to avoid being confined by roles. There just seemed to be a dynamic in their interaction that allowed them to oscillate in and out of their own and others’ institutionalised roles. They did share ownership of the joint outcome with each other and the inmate and they showed a commitment to shared conversations just as they narrated that all arenas were of equal importance. However, they did not seek, nurture or value conflict between different perspectives. In the prison, we did not find much explicit sensemaking about conflict or observe actual conflict. There can be a number of reasons for this, one of which may be that the professionals consciously seek unity in their response to the inmates.
Providing support that ensures an inmate’s life, well-being and participation, requires the integration of many different professional domains. This organising principle means professionals employed by different organisations, each with different institutional logics, will work at the same physical location with the same citizens and with the same overall purpose. In the context of demand for greater interagency collaboration between professional groups, it becomes important to understand the specific practices, which may underpin such collaboration. To do this, in this chapter, we explored specifically which practices in the Norwegian prison setting, are pivotal in underpinning the shared sensemaking processes that enabled actors to collaborate despite different institutional logics.
We identified three aspects of the shared practice through which different and potentially competing institutional logics live together in the prison—without resorting to compromise or conflict. These include a modular narrative, use of pliable metaphors, pan- and multi-professional artefacts, and frequent and widespread interaction.
We suggest that the shared practices in the prison function through a sensemaking process, where professionals in the prison have become able to oscillate between the institutionalised logic of their profession and a shared logic centred on the inmate (the citizen). Lastly, we found that they had developed a pattern of frequent interaction between the multiple professions who work at the prison—interactions that were both work related as well as social. We suggest that the practices of the studied prison can be seen as a case of different institutional logics “living with” each other rather than a case of compromising or resolving contradictions. However, it is a “living with” which gives conflict another role than the one in the practices of “living with” identified by Austin et al. (2018). We have here emphasised the meta-nature of the shared narrative, the use of metaphors and the role of the tools and documents.
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Murphy, T., Aakjær, M., Pallesen, E., Rosenberg, C. (2021). “Living with” Interagency Collaboration—Three Sustaining Practices. In: Hean, S., Johnsen, B., Kajamaa, A., Kloetzer, L. (eds) Improving Interagency Collaboration, Innovation and Learning in Criminal Justice Systems. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70661-6_4
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