Deliberation and Deliberative Organizational Routines in Frontline Decision-making

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Deliberation is a widely recognized but understudied aspect of frontline decision-making. This study contributes to theory development by exploring deliberative practices in frontline organizations and their implications for decision-making. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnographic study in three Danish child welfare agencies, the analysis clarifies the multiple purposes of deliberation in everyday practice and shows how deliberation is enabled and structured by formalized and informal deliberative organizational routines. Findings show that deliberation may influence individual decision-making or amount to collective decision-making. Depending on how deliberative organizational routines are enacted, deliberation may serve to enhance professional judgment, ensure appropriate justification for decisions, and alleviate uncertainty and emotional strain. Yet, while deliberation represents a productive form of collective coping, deliberative routines may also obscure transparency and reify dysfunctional group dynamics. A conceptual framework is developed to support further research into the purposes, practices, and implications of deliberation across diverse street-level contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)471-488
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

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