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Information Technology for Non-Profit Organisations: Extended Participatory Design of an Information System for Trade Union Shop Stewards
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, MDALAB - Human Computer Interfaces. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4677-1949
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The conditions for the third, non-profit sector, such as grassroots organisations and trade unions, have changed dramatically in recent years, due to prevailing social trends. Non-profit organisations have been seen as early adopters of information technology, but the area is, at the same time, largely unattended by scientific research. Meanwhile, the field of information systems development is, to an increasing extent, recognising the importance of user involvement in the design process. Nevertheless, participatory development approaches, such as Participatory Design are not suited to the context of entire organisations, and new, networked organisational structures, such as those of non-profit organisations. This reasoning also applies to the theoretical framework of Activity Theory, whose potential benefits for systems development have been acclaimed but less often tried in practice.

This thesis aims, first, at extending Participatory Design to use in large, particularly non-profit organisations. This aim is partly achieved by integrating Participatory Design with an Argumentative Design approach and with the application of Activity Theory modified for an organisational context. The purpose is to obtain reasoning about and foreseeing the consequences of different design solutions. Second, the thesis aims at exploring information technology needs, solutions, and consequences in non-profit organisations, in trade unions in particular. The case under study is the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) and the design of an information system for its 250 000 shop stewards.

The thesis is based on six related studies complemented with data from work in a local design group working according to the principles of Participatory Design. The first study was aimed at investigating and comparing trade union management’s view of the new technology and the actual needs of shop stewards. The second study investigated the situation, tasks and problems of shop stewards, as a pre-requisite for finding information technology needs. The third study merged the previous findings into an argumentative design of an information systems design proposal. The fourth study collected the voices from secondary user groups in the organisation, and presented an Activity theoretical analysis of the union organisation and a modified design proposal in the form of a prototype. The fifth study presented an Activity theoretical framework, modified for organisational application, and used it for producing hypotheses on possible shop steward tasks and organisational consequences of the implementation of the information system. The sixth paper was aimed at the initial testing of the hypotheses, through the evaluation of information technology facilities in one of the individual union affiliations. The complementary data was used to propose further modifications of the integrated Participatory, Argumentative, and Activity Theory design approach.

The major contributions of the study are, first, a modified Participatory Design approach to be applied at three levels; in general as a way of overcoming experienced difficulties with the original approach, in the context of entire, large organisations, and in the specific non-profit organisation context. The second contribution is generated knowledge in the new research area of information technology in the non-profit, trade union context, where for instance the presented prototype can be seen as a source of inspiration. Future research directions include further development and formalisation of the integrated Participatory Design approach, as well as actual consequences of implementing information technology in non-profit organisations and trade unions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2002. , 121 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 749
Keyword [en]
Informations system, trade unions, Non-profit organisations, information technology, Participatory Design
National Category
Computer and Information Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-4981ISBN: 91-7373-318-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-4981DiVA: diva2:20857
Public defence
2002-09-25, Visionen, Hus B, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Supervisors
Note
On the day of the public defence the status of article V was: Submitted.Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2015-08-19Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. From 'the good work' to 'the good life': a Perspective on Labor Union Visions Regarding Information Technology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From 'the good work' to 'the good life': a Perspective on Labor Union Visions Regarding Information Technology
1998 (English)In: Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference, 1998, 137-145 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13484 (URN)
Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2015-08-19
2. How do Shop Stewards Perceive their Situation and Tasks?: Preconditions for Support of Union Work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How do Shop Stewards Perceive their Situation and Tasks?: Preconditions for Support of Union Work
2001 (English)In: Economic and Industrial Democracy, ISSN 0143-831X, E-ISSN 1461-7099, Vol. 22, no 4, 569-599 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

When unions worldwide confront a decline in density and power,pressure increases on shop stewards. They occupy a positiondesribed s demanding, which involves striking a balance betweenconciliation and tough negotiation, between ordinary work andunion work, and feelings of isolation from members. If shopstewards already experien a demanding work situation, and parallelto this the overall union conditions become aggravated, a nextstep would be to find out in what ways their situation can befacilitated. This article is based on data desribing recentexperiences of Swedish shop stewards, and it compares theirsituation to that desribed in the international research literature.It is found that the basic components of union work remain stable,in spite of rent labour relations changes and national differences.However, lees than half of the reported problems were relatedto direct contact with the employer. Shop stewards generalyexperience a situation characterized by inherent conflict andwide-ranging tasks, resulting in high demands on their skillsand in role overload. On the other hand, the results indicatedifferences with regard to the ulnion affilation, age, experienceand gender. En the eyes of union members the shop stew ardslargely emb ody the ui on organizati on. Therefore, they shouldreeive increased attention when dealing with the problems ofunions. Measures to facilitate their work can include training,supportive networks and access to adequate information technology,and can further be targeted with regard to age/experience andgender.

Keyword
labour relations, shop stewards, trade unions, union membership
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13485 (URN)10.1177/0143831X01224006 (DOI)
Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2017-12-13
3. Organisational Policy and Shop-floor Requests in Design: Visualisation of the Argumentation Behind an Information System for the Swedish Trade Union Movement
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Organisational Policy and Shop-floor Requests in Design: Visualisation of the Argumentation Behind an Information System for the Swedish Trade Union Movement
2001 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, ISSN 0905-0167, E-ISSN 1901-0990, Vol. 13, 115-133 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Design Rationale is an approach to the design of information systems which highlights the underlying argumentative reasoning and documentation of design decisions. The Argumentative Design (ArD) method extends Design Rationale to address organisational problem identification and the formulation of needs to be supported by the system. In this study, ArD was further modified and then applied in the early phase of the design of an information system for shop stewards in the Swedish trade union movement. The application of ArD revealed that both similarities and significant discrepancies existed between top-management information technology strategies and shop-floor needs, and that the strategies involve fundamental power-relation issues in terms of centralisation versus decentralisation and individualism versus collectivism. It is suggested that ArD can be of general benefit in early design phases by eliciting fundamental organisational issues and by illustrating what impact chosen information technology solutions may have on organisations. The study is of value for other unions wishing to learn from the Swedish experience and the modified ArD approach can also be used in other contexts where several interest groups are to be satisfied by a system.

Keyword
Design Rationale, Argumentative Design, trade unions, information systems
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13486 (URN)
Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2017-12-13
4. From Utopia to DLK: Management of External Voices in Large Participatory Design Projects
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Utopia to DLK: Management of External Voices in Large Participatory Design Projects
2000 (English)In: Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference, 2000, 156-165 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

There is a need to extend Participatory design in order to apply it in heterogeneous user groups and large projects of strategic importance for organizations. This study displays an approach to capturing and including relevant external design voices using data from the design of an information system aimed to support the day-to-day tasks of Swedish shop stewards. It was found that shop stewards often use an operative voice, middle level union ombudsmen an organizational voice, and union federation management an ideological one when relating to information technology. An Activity theory analysis showed that the union organization stands at a crossroads, and that the choice of information technology will directly influence the future direction to be taken. It is argued that all parties in a design process must therefore be heard, in order to arrive at system solutions that are actually implemented, used and administrated.

National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13487 (URN)0966781813 (ISBN)
Conference
6th Biennial Participatory Design Conference 2000, November 28 - December 1, 2000, New York, USA
Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2015-08-19
5. Using Activity Theory in system development for entire organisations: the case of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using Activity Theory in system development for entire organisations: the case of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation
2002 (English)In: International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, ISSN 1465-6612, Vol. 2, no 3-4, 308-328 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Activity Theory has, in recent years, been criticised for not paying enough attention to the notion of individual versus collective subjects. It has also been pointed out that even though the Activity theoretical framework can beneficially be used in the development of information systems, actual attempts to apply it to concrete projects are only occasional. This study explores the use of Activity Theory in an organisational context where the subject is of marked collective nature, in an information systems development project for the Swedish National Trade Union Confederation (LO). Both implications of the study as regards the specific trade union application, and more general implications of applying Activity Theory to studies of entire organisations and for system development, are discussed.

Keyword
Activity Theory, organisational change, information systems development, trade unions
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13488 (URN)
Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2015-09-02
6. Anticipated and Actual Consequences of Implementing Information Technology in a Large Third Sector Organisation: the Case of a Trade Union Confederation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Anticipated and Actual Consequences of Implementing Information Technology in a Large Third Sector Organisation: the Case of a Trade Union Confederation
2002 (English)In: 18th European Group for Organizational Studies Colloquium, Barcelona, 2002Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13489 (URN)
Available from: 2002-10-17 Created: 2002-10-17 Last updated: 2015-08-19

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