Democratic governance through intermediary bodies: a case study of third sector interfaces in Scotland

Cullingworth, Jane (2020) Democratic governance through intermediary bodies: a case study of third sector interfaces in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This research focuses on third sector interfaces (TSIs) as a site through which to examine the relationship between the third sector and the state in Scotland. The TSI model was instituted by the Scottish Government in 2011 in each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities with a remit to build sector capacity, support volunteerism, encourage social enterprise, and represent the sector in community planning. Through its participation in state-initiated local governance networks, like Community Planning Partnerships, the sector has a prominence that was unthinkable just twenty years ago.

This research study explores the impact of a TSI’s participation in state-initiated local governance networks, focusing on the TSI’s independence from the state and its representation of the sector. Using a qualitative interpretivist approach, 44 semi-structured interviews were conducted (13 with national stakeholders, 19 with local stakeholders, and 12 with TSI staff) and 16 local governance meetings observed. A large urban TSI was selected for the case study.

Four key themes emerged from an iterative thematic analysis. One, that local governance sits within a space, literal and figurative, where representative and participatory democracy meet. Through its participation, the TSI is brought closer to the state implicating it in statutory decision making. Two, the TSI model is an example of a “civil servant construct” channelling the sector’s participation in local governance networks through structures that mirror state priorities, compromising the independence of the TSI and complicating its representation role. Three, the TSI’s closeness to the state creates distrust within the third sector which in turn weakens its legitimacy in representing the sector. Four, local governance spaces embody a culture of “managed talk” compromising the TSI’s ability to be activist and shaping its participation through a state logic.

The study suggests that there is an impact on both the TSI’s independence from the state and the ways in which it represents the third sector. The current state approach to engaging the third sector risks “manufacturing civil society” (Brandsen, et al., 2014) where the sector becomes a reflection of the state rather than an expression of civil society. Recommendations from the study include the need for democratic governance spaces to be shaped collaboratively by the state and civil society, the state to reconsider its instrumental approach to the third sector, the third sector to assert its independence, and intermediary bodies to act as facilitators rather than representatives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: democratic governance, third sector, intermediary bodies, third sector independence, third sector representation, governance networks, community planning, case study.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Gibb, Professor Kenneth and Watson, Professor Nicholas
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Ms. Jane Cullingworth
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81355
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 May 2020 05:43
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2022 08:22
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81355

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