Public service integration: an exploration of reciprocal interdependence and organisational culture

Madhulata Patel

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There is public and government support for integrated public services which are currently delivered by the public, private and third (voluntary) sector to meet cross cutting and interdependent public needs. Yet there are challenges as some citizens report dissatisfaction with their experience of public services. Some policy makers regard organisational culture (as a system of shared beliefs and values that guide behaviour) as key to achieving successful public service integration. Reciprocal interdependence is based on the idea that a relationship is mutually beneficial to organisations seeking to achieve public service integration including the sharing of risks.

This study, “Public service integration: an exploration of reciprocal interdependence and organisational culture” intends to consider where interdependence (as shared goals) and reciprocal relationships (as the giving of benefits with the expectation of the same in the return), feature in achieving effective public service integration. This is done through a literature review and a multiple case study that explores relationships between stakeholders from the public, private and third sector when they work together to deliver integrated and innovative public services.

The multiple case study has used a theoretical framework on reciprocal interdependence (Thompson 1967; Alter and Hage, 1993; Thompson, 2003) to explore three innovative case studies; two in Wales and one in the Netherlands. Data was collected from in-depth and semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, a survey, the observation of meetings and a physical artefact (produced item).

This study concludes that an understanding and implementation of interdependence can facilitate equality and mutual respect between each sector and organisation, based on the realisation that each are needed. This interdependent work enables sectors to pool their unique contributions which are especially critical during these austere times. Public service integration is strengthened by reciprocal relationships because an understanding of reciprocity between the public, private and third sector requires each sector to understand what they will be expected to give and gain to contribute towards a shared goal. Reciprocal relationships encourage sectors to engage in up front conversations where all parties are willing to acknowledge differences that may not always sit comfortably with each other. However, these differences have to be understood and negotiated to achieve public service integration. Improved working relationships can support increased efficiencies in the development of public services. This is as a result of collective commitment to share risks as well as benefits and a mutual respect that values everyone’s contribution within and across sectors and organisations.

The new knowledge generated by this study underpins the recommendations that are made in the final section of this thesis. These recommendations are accompanied by a proposed checklist to support citizens, sectors and organisations entering new working relationships to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. There is also identification of how an understanding of interdependence and reciprocal relationships contributes towards enablers and barriers to public service integration. Ultimately, the new insight from this study and its recommendations intend to contribute to theory, policy and practice on the development of integrated services.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of South Wales
Number of pages563
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Integrated public services
  • interdependence
  • reciprocal relationships
  • public sector
  • private sector
  • tertiary sector


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