Who Is in Charge? The Provision of Informal Personal Resources at the Street Level

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Street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) nowadays provide services under conditions of increased demand for public services coupled with scarcer financial resources. The literature that focuses on how workers adapt to this situation mainly examines their provision of formal resources as part of their job. What researchers have not systematically examined is the delivery of informal personal resources (IFRs) by street-level workers to clients. Understanding the provision of IFRs is particularly important when "no one is fully in charge"of public services. Drawing on 214 in-depth qualitative interviews with SLBs who provide education, health, and welfare services in the public sector in Israel, we found a remarkable range of IFRs they provided to clients. We also found that four main factors influencing the provision of IFRs: lack of formal resources; professional commitment; managerial encouragement; and a work environment whose values combine old and new approaches to public service. The findings contribute to the public administration literature by exposing how public service function in a somewhat vague reality, and they contribute to the SLB literature by highlighting the unrecognized component of informal service provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-20
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Public Management Research Association. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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