Customized interactions: how street-level practitioners, managers, and policymakers accomplish and challenge the provision of customized social services

Wednesday 14 February 2024, 2:30 pm
PhD student
E.L. Visser
prof. dr. T. Brandsen, prof. dr. J.K. Helderman
dr. P.M. Kruyen

This thesis answers the question of how customisation comes about in the day-to-day practice of youth care. It shows that street-level practitioners are well able to provide customised solutions and, in doing so, even adapt their own routines and policies more generally in creative ways to achieve those customised solutions. The thesis shifts the focus from individual officials or structures to the actions and interactions between street-level practitioners, managers, and policy makers and shows that shared routines and consultation play a major role. Customisation requires a different way of organising executive work, with street-level practitioners using not only more discretionary space, but also other helping and limiting structures. These structures ensure creative solutions and a certain predictability and consistency. When this is not well organised, customisation does not get off the ground, or there are major risks. Customisation thus also essentially means a different relationship between policy, management, and implementation and a greater role for constant tuning and adaptation. 

Besides this empirical contribution, the thesis argues that ethnographic methods are ideally suited for investigating everyday activities and encounters between implementation and policy. There is extensive reflection on the practice of these methods. 

Lianne Visser is associate professor at the Institute of Public Administration at Leiden University. Her research and teaching focus on customisation and responsiveness by executive officials, the relationship between implementation and policy, and informal and everyday aspects of the work of executive officials, managers, and policy makers. She also writes on qualitative, ethnographic methods and Practice theory. 

Prior to her PhD, Lianne worked as a consultant in the social domain. She holds a research master's degree in anthropology and bachelor's degree (cum laude) in Language and Cultural Studies, both from Utrecht University. Her research has been published in leading public administration journals such as Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Administration Review and Public Administration. She is currently working on new research projects on the role of aldermen in responsive governance and on executive officials as policy translators in delivering customised services.