Meaning in headwind: Experiences with NGO professionalization

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Nicoline Hirtsholm Pedersen
4. term, Learning and Innovative Change, Master (Master Programme)
How is professionalization changing a section of Danish NGOs, and what do the changes mean for the employees experience of having a meaningful job? The paper examines the changes towards professionalization in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and how a section of the employees in these value-based organizations experience the impact of the changes on their everyday work and their feeling of having a meaningful job. The paper’s inquiry is based on the research question: Which professionalization developments do the questioned employees in four Danish NGOs experience, and how do they experience that the developments influence their experience of meaning in their work? The theoretical approach to the inquiry is three-piece. The first is based on sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory in relation to organizations. This angel is explored through the use of two of his own writings; (Luhmann, 2000) (Luhmann, Hayles, Rasch, & Wolfe, 2000) and two supplementary perspectives into Luhmann’s organizational theory; (Tække & Paulsen, 2008) (Thyssen, 2008). The second approach explores Paul DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell’s theory of isomorphic changes in organizations, resulting in widespread homogeny (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). The third and final approach explores the concept of meaningful work through the anthology Det meningsfulde arbejdsliv (Eriksen C. L., 2009), in which academics present the many aspects of this multifaceted concept (Brinkmann, 2009) (Eriksen C. L., 2009a) (Eriksen C. L., 2009b) (Gormsen, 2009). The paper utilizes two methodological approaches in its inquiry; personal interviews and structured written interviews. The approach to interview methodology comes from Steiner Kvale’s book InterView – introduktion til et håndværk (Kvale, 2004). The methodological ap-proach to structured written interviews is one that I myself have created, because I needed a way to interview members of the NGOs, who could not participate in personal interviews. The method is comprised of insights from the aforementioned Kvale book, as well as questionnaire methodology from (Sreejesh, Mohapatra, & Anusree, 2014) and (Sapsford, 2007). Largely the paper concludes that the employees experience many changes to their workplaces as a result of professionalization, and some of them are frustrating and can challenge the experience of having a meaningful job. In the end, however, the fact that their jobs give them the opportunity to make a difference for people who need it desperately means that they find meaning in their work regardless of the challenges.
Publication date1 Jun 2015
Number of pages85
ID: 213134774