Third sec tor and social service delivery: the «Black Box» of citizen’s participation in public management and its impact on corporative welfare regimes
The article analyzes a type of citizen participation in public managenet: third sector delivery of public social services through contracting-out. Acknowledging the increasing importance this mechanism has and taking concrete experiences in Uruguay and Spain, the paper describes its main characteristics and challenges.
The main goal of this exercise is to determine to what extent the participation ideals that tend to be associated to contracting-out are actually present in the discourse and everyday practices of the actors involved in public policies. At the same time, the document tries to identify the risks related to contracting-out that can influence in a negative way the confirmation of the most optimistic hypotheses about the democratizing role of third sector.
Additionally, the paper explores the place that contracting-out of public social services through third sector organization has on the welfare systems of both countries, questioning its importance and trying to determine the threats and alerts that arise from regulation and accountability mechanisms that are being used. Based on evidence from several previous studies, the article shows important deficit in the evaluation of third sector organizations' work in this specific type of participation in public management, confirming that the "good intentions" usually associated to the third sector are actually an obstacle for the effective development of control mechanisms in two consolidated democratic regimes like Spain and Uruguay.
Finally, using empirical evidence, the document discusses the meanings of these findings and, particularly, the impacts that this "black box" of citizen participation has on social protection systems. The comparison between Spain and Uruguay offers several opportunities for the interpretation of the meanings that citizen participation on public administration could have in countries with weak civil societies and corporative models of welfare.