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Title: "No Wrong Door:" Data Sharing and Coordination in Nonprofit Social Services
Authors: Terrasse, Mélanie
Advisors: Vertesi, Janet
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: data sharing
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the ground-level implications of two intersecting features of U.S. social policy: the local devolution of the American safety net and the growing enthusiasm for technological solutions to sociopolitical issues. Through ethnographic participant observation and qualitative interviews spanning a two-year period, I followed the implementation of data-sharing initiative among a group of local anti-poverty nonprofits in Central Pennsylvania. By sharing client data across organizations, participating organizations aimed to make it easier for clients to access services, to ameliorate the quality of services, and to give administrators tools to measure and improve organizational performance. In doing so, the initiative was based on the vision of a unified, rational system to effectively and efficiently combat local poverty. I show that the implementation of this project illuminated tensions between its underlying vision for anti-poverty work and other important aspects of service delivery. In many participating programs, technocratic goals of coordination and performance measurement came into conflict with interactional components of social work such as the case manager-client relationship and professional discretion in decision-making. In other settings, the initiative’s outcome-oriented emphasis on “moving the needle” and meeting the ambitious goal of eliminating local poverty was at odds with more traditional programs’ narrower goals of providing short-term services. As revealed through the implementation of the database, these tensions led to a reshaping and renegotiating of the technology in ways that affected both individual program operations and the success of the overall initiative. This dissertation contributes to the fields of social service administration and science and technology studies by describing the ground-level consequences of technological implementation in a fragmented and low-resource field.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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