Surfacing the Deeper Human Aspects of Reform: The Role of Power, Identity, and Emotion
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CitationRinehart, Renee. 2019. Surfacing the Deeper Human Aspects of Reform: The Role of Power, Identity, and Emotion. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractScholars have examined why successful reform often remains elusive in the public sector. These perspectives have focused on how the structure of many public sector systems complicates top-down implementation, as actors respond to reforms based on their own understandings, interpretations, and interests. Across three papers in this dissertation, I build upon prior work by exploring how power dynamics, social identity, and emotions shape how individuals, groups, and organizations respond to reform.
The first study draws on interviews with 77 actors across role levels in two states that were implementing education reforms as part of Race to the Top. Findings uncovered how power and identity dynamics divided “higher ups” in district offices and state agencies and “lower down” teachers and school leaders. Higher ups were able to break power and identity barriers to mitigate the negative consequences of this divide by conveying respect, humility, and empathy in their interactions with educators.
The second study examined a prison that had recently implemented a new unit dedicated to rehabilitative practices and draws on 25 interviews with correctional officers, operational managers, and senior leaders, as well as 56 hours of observation of routine work activities, staff meetings, and training sessions. The first paper examined how officers in the rehabilitative unit took on fundamentally new roles that conflicted with core elements of the traditional correctional officer identity. This role-redefining reform succeeded when the new form of emotional labor aligned with officers’ natural tendencies, when they had strong social support, and when the leader of the reform embodied the ideal, “fantasmic” images of both the old and new role identities. Finally, the last paper examined how the organization’s ambivalence about the punishment-rehabilitation paradox and the ways in which they managed the tension across the traditional units and the rehabilitative unit mirrored their ambivalence about how to simultaneously defend against and confront deeper anxieties, pain, and trauma.
Together, this dissertation offers contributions about how deeper social and emotional factors shape responses to reform in ways that are both conscious and nonconscious, as well as new theoretical and methodological approaches for uncovering the impact of these factors.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42013045
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