187.2
User Participation in Welfare Service Management Possibility of Authentic Argumentation Between the Welfare Service Users and Welfare Professionals

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 65
Oral Presentation
Terry TF LEUNG , The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
User participation is an age-old piece of good practice advice for human services. In Hong Kong, user participation in service management and planning is mandatory for welfare service organizations that receive public funding. Also encouraged by consumerist impetus, many welfare service organizations in Hong Kong include service users in their governance structures to inform the making of management decisions. However, critics often have doubt on the possibility of authentic argumentation between the welfare service users and welfare professionals in these organizational platforms. Habermas’ model of a discursive space that is free from the domination of power remains an ideal to be realized.

The author has conducted a study on the participation of welfare service users in governing welfare service organizations in Hong Kong. The study sets out to interrogate the interaction dynamics between the welfare service users and the welfare professionals in organizational decision-making platforms. Drawing from Habermas’ theory of communicative action (Habermas, 1986), the presentation will discuss how the welfare service users construct their institutional identity and the institutional power relations, and the ways that their lifeworld and system world interact to influence the communicative actions. The presentation will also explore the ways that discourse orientation and communicative competence of the participants shape the discursive space for organizational decision-making. The discussion will help assess the possibility of authentic argumentation in traditional power asymmetry between the welfare service users and the welfare professionals in the Chinese society of Hong Kong.

Reference:

Habermas, J. (1986). The theory of communicative action - Reason and the rationalization of society. Cambridge: Polity Press.