Social capital in human service/child welfare organizations: implications for work motivation, job satisfaction, innovation, and quality

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Montana, Salvador Macias

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Public human services organizations are part of society’s complex web of organizations that serve all dimensions of society, including disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals, families, groups, and communities under the rubric of social welfare. This dissertation is an exploratory study of the concept called social capital and its relevance to public human service organizations, especially those organizations providing child welfare services. Americans’ perceptions of public human service organizations is largely negative and conjures up images of excessive bureaucracy, poor consumer satisfaction, inferior services, and poor employee morale. Public child welfare organizations epitomize these negative perceptions. Further, many in society believe that the public child welfare system is in crisis and in need of substantial reform. Some have suggested that social learning theory and organizational learning perspectives can guide reforms efforts aimed at changing the bureaucratic paradigm associated with public child welfare and public human services in general. This study builds on these perspectives by examining factors associated with organizational life through the conceptual lens of social capital. These viii organizational factors include: work motivation, job satisfaction, innovation, and quality of services that are thought to be important to organizational performance. A review of the literature reveals that theorists and researchers possess a variety of conceptualizations and definitions of social capital and it has proven to be a highly exclusive concept. This study examined an operationalization and measurement of social capital in a human service organization and explored its relationship to work motivation, job satisfaction, innovation, and quality of services. Factor analysis was used to examine an operationalization of social capital, motivation, job satisfaction, innovation, and quality. Multiple regression analysis was used to explore relationships between these concepts. The influence of demographic variables on these organizational concepts was examined using hierarchical regression. This study used secondary data from the Texas Department Protective and Regulatory Services (now called the Department of Family and Protective Services) and collected by The Survey of Organizational Excellence research group located at the School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin. Findings from this study suggest an operationalization of social capital is possible using more definitive conceptualizations and definitions of the concept; however, more refined measures are needed. Findings also suggest that social capital may have positive relationships to organizational life concepts used in this study. Implications for social work/child welfare knowledge and practice, human service organizations, organizational leaders, and social work education are drawn.