Margot Kersing has published a new article 'The changing roles of frontline bureaucrats in the digital welfare state: The case of a data dashboard in Rotterdam’s Work and Income department' in Data & Policy. Kersing researches the use of big data by frontline bureaucrats in the social domain.
The welfare state is currently undergoing a transition toward data-driven policies, management, and execution. This has important repercussions for frontline bureaucrats in such a “digital welfare state.” So far, impact of data-driven tools on frontline bureaucrats is primarily described in terms of curtailing or enlarging their discretionary space to make decisions. It is unclear, however, how daily work practices and role identities of frontline bureaucrats change in situ and which norms they develop to work with new data tools. In this article, we present an empirical study about the impact of a data dashboard in the Work and Income department of the municipality of Rotterdam. We answer the following research question: Which role identities, work practices, and norms of appropriate behavior of frontline bureaucrats in the social domain are reshaped by the introduction of a data dashboard? We use a multiple methods design consisting of semi-structured interviews, ethnographic observations, and document analysis. Our results reveal two role identities among frontline bureaucrats: (a) the client coach, and (b) the caseload manager. We show that the implementation of the dashboard stimulates a shift from a client coach role identity toward a caseload manager role identity. This shift is contested as it leads to role identity conflicts among frontline bureaucrats with a client coach role. Furthermore, we establish that the accommodation of the institutional void in which the introduction of the dashboard takes place, is centered around three themes of contestation: (a) data quality, (b) quality of service provision, and (c) data representations.
The article can be accessed through the link below.
Kersing, M., van Zoonen, L., Putters, K. and Oldenhof, L. (2022) “The changing roles of frontline bureaucrats in the digital welfare state: The case of a data dashboard in Rotterdam’s Work and Income department,” Data & Policy. Cambridge University Press, 4, p. e24. doi: 10.1017/dap.2022.16.