An ethnographic case study on transformation of a social welfare agency into a positive organization

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An ethnographic case study on transformation of a social welfare agency into a positive organization


Author: Cheung, Kam Hung Rainbow
Title: An ethnographic case study on transformation of a social welfare agency into a positive organization
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2016
Subject: Organizational change -- Case studies.
Corporate culture.
Social service -- China--Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Christian Service.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: xiv, 405 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: This ethnographic case study explores how a social welfare organization, the Hong Kong Christian Service (HKCS), achieved positive organizational change and transformed into a positive organization. It addresses an understudied research area which is severely lacking of qualitative case studies for constructing practice knowledge to understand how organizations affect positive change in response to the challenges brought about by the social welfare reform in the 2000s. Positive organization is a direction of positive organizational development that focuses on nurturing the best of human condition and striving for positivity by maximizing the organization's capacity under constraint. The ethnographic approach serves as a fresh lens for looking into the process of positive organizational change from a different perspective and offers a rich and in-depth description of the experiences of positive change in an organization over an extended period of time. The researcher entered the change processes of HKCS as an insider ethnographer cum practitioner and became both the data collection/data generation instrument and the lens used to analyze the phenomenon and dynamics of transformation. Two significant phases of HKCS's organizational change were identified. The first one evolved from 2000 to 2007 showing its reframing practice and multi-frame practice. Through retrospective study, the process and mechanism of reframing that created a momentum of change and the multi-frame practice involving good practices of political, structural, human resource and cultural-symbolic dimensions that surfaced from this study explains HKCS's positive organizational change. The second phase was a process of positive practice from 2008 to 2013. An in-depth exploration of its lived experience explained how HKCS made use of the Positive Journey to create a positive practice frame by nurturing the staff's strengths, fostering a positive workplace, developing its positive service, and constructing the Positive Organizational Index as a tool for promoting positive organization. It was discovered that its positive practice is an overarching frame which generates positive energy and a positive cycle that supports the organization moves towards becoming a positive organization.
The findings of this study have generated significant contributions across four important domains. First, it adopts a combined process lens and positivity to understand complicated positive organizational change of HKCS. A theoretical practice framework and the mechanism of HKCS's process of transformation into a positive organization are constructed to explain its unique practice wisdom of positive organizational development. Second, the results of this study show that it builds new theoretical insights into the literature of organizational reframing. It identifies a newly emerged positive practice frame which supports building of a positive organization on top of Bolman and Deal's (2003) four-frame model. Third, this study expands the practice knowledge of positive organizational studies by illustrating how an organization transformed into a positive organization in local context. It fills in the gaps of empirical evidence for the process of positive organizational change. Finally, it demonstrates HKCS's practice wisdom in developing a Positive Organizational Index to measure an organization's level of positivity and constructing the process of how an organization moves towards a positive organization. This case study is useful in gaining a deeper understanding of how HKCS took positive organizational development as a direction to transform itself into a positive organization.

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