What is an empowering authority? Community empowerment and organisational culture

Published: August 2010 Publication Type: Publication

This paper builds on The Young Foundation’s practical experience with local authorities to develop and deepen understanding of how organisational cultures affect the success of neighbourhood working.

It looks at how culture interacts with structures, people and processes and highlights tools for thinking through the cultural challenges that arise from partnership working, looking particularly at the work of Edgar Schein and Mary Douglas. These theories can aid understanding of the plurality of cultural mindsets that different stakeholders bring to neighbourhood working. Understanding both the wider culture of the local authority and the cultural assumptions of frontline stakeholders is vital for working through bottlenecks and building shared expectations.

The paper concludes with a checklist for diagnosing both where neighbourhood working fits within the culture of the wider local authority, and levels of conflict and collaboration between different ‘subcultures’ of officers, members, service providers and residents in specific neighbourhoods.

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