A4 Conference proceedings

Feeling Perplexed: The paradoxes of building equality and participation in public services.

Publication Details
Authors: Pässilä Anne, Vince Russ
Publication year: 2017
Language: English
JUFO-Level of this publication: 0
Open Access: Not known


working on questions of equality and participation, organizations aspire to be
‘good’ in the sense of being both responsible and just. However, there are
ongoing contradictions between the wish to be responsible and just, and the
extent to which responsibility and justice emerge in organizations (OECD, 2015
and 2016). In this paper, we are attempting to find out more about such
tensions. Our focus is on how young people in Finland respond to interdependent
contradictions mobilized by attempts to promote equality and participation
within public services that are designed for them.

research suggests that the desire to involve young people in public services is
enacted through various tensions, and that consequently, everyone involved
feels perplexed. Young people are
perplexed because their experience of services is both to be invited to
contribute and to be kept outside. Project managers responsible for service
delivery are perplexed because they are both dependent on numbers and puzzled
by their limitations in addressing users’ real issues and fulfilling the
measurement requirements given to them (e.g. by the government ministries to
whom they are responsible). Leaders and policy makers are perplexed because
they are both aware of the need for holistic services and constrained by
everyday organizational issues and relations that fragment their vision. We
have coined the term ‘perplexity’ to describe these paradoxical organizational
dynamics and their emotional and practical consequences for equality and
participation. We see perplexity as an emotional consequence of organizational
paradox. In this context, it describes how public service development and
delivery can be full of contradictory feelings and actions; that both invite
users to participate, and that discourages them from participation at the same
time. However, we also suggest that critical reflection on these paradoxical
organizational dynamics is important for building public services, and that
art-pedagogy has a creative and practical role in reflecting on and
understanding paradoxical tensions inherent in participation.

practical purpose of the overall research (from which this study is taken) is
to find effective organizational approaches for involving people between the
ages of 16-30 in building public services that are relevant to their lives. We
bring together theories of organizational paradox (Smith and Lewis, 2011;
Jarrett and Vince, 2017) and the organization of reflection through
art-pedagogy (Pässilä, A. and Owens, 2016; Pässilä, Owens, Pulkki,
2016; Pässilä, 2012) to explore and develop new ways of thinking about public
service delivery for young people in Finland. We are contributing to
understanding a policy issue with resonances beyond Finland and into other
parts of Europe, where young peoples’ agency to create an active role in
society, especially in education, training and labor markets, is challenged by
the very structures that intend to enable such agency (Mascherini, Salvatore,
Meierkord & Jungblut, 2012).

Last updated on 2019-18-03 at 14:03