• Rikke Liv Sahl Holst
4. semester, Socialt Arbejde, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)

The Compass of Change (Forandringskompasset)

Social work has been exposed to criticism during the past decade, which has led to a political demand of evidence of the outcome of social work. As a result an increased number of binding administrative procedures have been implemented.

In 2011 the Copenhagen municipality started implementing a new instrument called The Compass of Change in the social services department. Social workers now have to indicate how their clients develop on a scale from 1 to 10 within ten different dimensions every six months. The Compass of Change is an attempt firstly to make it possible for social workers to follow the development of their clients and secondly to identify the outcome of the many different institutions within the social services in Copenhagen. The idea is that aggregated data from the compass can be used as management information about clients and services.

In this thesis I focus on how social workers in child welfare services use The Compass of Change and how the Compass of Change influences social work in the municipality of Copenhagen.

The thesis is based on qualitative analyses of observations and interviews with social workers. The observations are useful because they offer an insight into how the social workers fill out and handle the instrument as part of their daily work in four different institutions. The interviews led me on to the social workers’ experiences and reflections on the challenges and opportunities the compass creates for practice within social work. The theoretical perspective is inspired by studies of accountability in modern welfare states and by studies of power and governance developed by Michel Foucault.

In the first part of the empirical analysis I study the way the data (numbers) is produced and the way the data registration practice takes place. The analysis revealed that several competing factors influence the way the compass is filled out, leading me to problematise the reliability of the use of numbers as unbiased evidence of the clients’ development. I conclude that there is a risk that management information based on the aggregated data can be based on misinformation. The use of numbers as accounts is a reduction of complexity that is not useful and at the same time meaningless for the social workers, but at the same time the filling out of the compass in connection with the filling out of another instrument called “the development plan”, adds a sense of shared professional focus and direction to their work. The use of information and communication technology to register data from The Compass of Change can lead to an increased focus on behavior and attempts to describe action instead of explaining it.

In the second part I focus on how relations between social workers and children and their parents are affected by the new accountability. The analysis shows that the handing over of data (numbers) from The Compass of Change from social workers to their clients is problematic and can produce resistance from the clients. This leads to a discussion of whether some forms of accountability are more useful than others.

In the final part of the analysis I investigate how the social workers experience and reflect on the way the data from The Compass of Change can be used as management information. The social workers experience a significant insecurity about how the management information will be produced and used as basis for decision-making, which leads me to the conclusion that there is a risk of performance anxiety and strategic use of The Compass of Change.
Udgivelsesdato13 aug. 2013
Udgivende institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 80048422