Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

"Those Who Agree to Play on Our Terms Will Be Taken In": A Qualitative Study on the Perceptions of Public Authorities and NGO Representatives regarding Self-Organizing Fourth-Sector Activity

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

"Those Who Agree to Play on Our Terms Will Be Taken In": A Qualitative Study on the Perceptions of Public Authorities and NGO Representatives regarding Self-Organizing Fourth-Sector Activity

Article excerpt

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We are highly grateful to the three reviewers whose insightful comments helped us to improve the quality of our article. This publication is part of the implementation of the Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research for 2017 (tietokayttoon.fi/en). The content is the responsibility of the producers of the information and does not necessarily represent the view of the government

INTRODUCTION

As a response to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, a volunteer organization emerged to deliver supplies to ground zero workers (Voorhees, 2008). Rising to the challenges of hurricane Katrina in 2005, emergent citizen groups such as the Robin Hood Looters came to the aid of fellow citizens (Rodríguez, Trainor, & Quarantelli, 2006). During the 2011 Norway terror attacks, unaffiliated volunteers emerged to rescue the victims who were swimming from the island of Utøya (Gjerland et al., 2015). In the refugee crises of 2015, public authorities all over Europe were overwhelmed by the informal self-organized responses of citizens in providing support, such as shelter and provisions, for refugees (Lorenz, Schulze, & Voss, 2018). Occurrences such as those above are not exceptional, but are natural actions in various crisis situations (Twigg & Mosel, 2017).

In Finland, it has been suggested that such self-organizing emergent civic activity should be incorporated into the conception of the fourth sector (see Jalava et al., 2017). For example, the Advisory Board on Civil Society Policy (known as KANE), that operates in conjunction with the Finnish Ministry of Justice mentions the fourth sector in its action plans for 2017-2021, and considers it to encompass individual citizens, informal associations of citizens, loose social networks, and households (KANE, 2017). In the growing Finnish research literature on the topic, the fourth sector is seen as being occupied with temporary project-type activities that carry no obligation to become a member of an association and where participation is formed around changing themes of interest rather than organizations. In this expanding self-organizing civic activity, social networking services, such as Facebook and Twitter, play a key role (see Mäenpää & Faehnle, 2017; Faehnle et al., 2017).

This study has two distinct purposes. The first relates to the observation that the literatures on the fourth sector and on spontaneous volunteers and emergent citizens groups in safety and security functions share very similar characteristics. However, these two areas of literature have not previously been integrated in academic studies. Linking these two research areas could help integrate spontaneous volunteers and emergent citizens groups in safety and security functions into a separate fourth sector, making a clear distinction in relation to the traditional third sector, encompassing not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations. In addition, the fourth-sector literature that has focused more on cultural practices, urban planning, and sustainable development (e.g., Böse, Busch, & Sesic, 2006; Mäenpää & Faehnle, 2017) could be expanded to include activities promoting safety and security (for a discussion on the definitions of safety and security, see Boholm, Möller, & Hansson 2016).

The main purpose of this study is, however, to explore tensions between fourth-sector type activity and public- and thirdsector organizations. Harris et al. (2017: 353) call this "the paradox of spontaneous volunteering" (involvement/exclusion paradox) defining it as "helpers wanting to be involved, juxtaposed with pressures for managers to exclude them." McLennan et al. (2017) raise the same issue in their risk-benefit framework for alternative strategic options for non-traditional emergency volunteers. Similarly, Strandh and Eklund (2018) state that further research opportunities exist on the question of whether public authorities, instead of striving to control spontaneous citizen volunteering, could learn to be flexible and feel safe in collaborating with the volunteers. …

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