Bringing Social Movement Theory
to Healthcare Practice in
the English National Health Service
Paul Bate and Glenn Robert
Even though there is a history of connection and overlap between the Social Movements (SM) and Organization Studies (OS) fields, recent years have seen an increase in the pace and density of these boundary crossings (Davis and Zald 2005: 336). For example, there have been two recent books bringing together SM and OS scholars (Snow, Soule, and Kriesi 2004; Davis et al. 2005), the purpose of these purely scholarly exchanges being to apply and develop theory in new ways and in new contexts and directions. In addition to this, articles have begun to appear with increasing regularity in mainstream OS and management journals, some directly addressing social movements as an organizational phenomenon (Crotty 2006), others using insights from the SM literature to explore a variety of OS issues from new perspectives; for example, how activist groups influence corporate social change activities (Berry 2003; Kozinets and Handleman 2004; den Hond and De Bakker 2007), stakeholder and shareholder mobilization and activism for change (Rowley and Moldoveanu 2003; Rehbein, Waddock and Graves 2004), and the role of leadership in mobilizing collective resistance and grassroots change in the workplace (Zoller 2007).
This chapter, in contrast, is about a boundary crossing of a very different kind, not between academics from different disciplines but between academics and practitioners, in this case practitioners in healthcare organizations. Rather than focusing on theory development per se, the work described here has relocated social movement theory to an action research setting, transposing it into an organizational change intervention aimed at bringing about dramatic improvements in services to patients (and the experience of staff providing those services). The chapter relates how academics and policymakers came together with healthcare staff in a unique five-year