Situational Analysis – Part 1

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We never write on a blank page, but always one that has been written on” (de Certeau cited in Lather 2001b:477-478).

Throughout our project we will use situational analysis to take into account the different ways in which social enterprise organisations are shaped and shape themselves, the environment in which this occurs and how structures, systems and people play different roles in this process. This approach will also enable us to account for the ways in which programs for young people are formed.

So, what is situational analysis? Clarke (2005) tells us that situational analysis is a research tool which enables us to further understand the context in which we live our lives, how we are shaped and shape our selves and our social environment. It is a form of mapping that helps us to look beyond individual and collective human actors to take into account nonhuman material cultural objects. As Clarke (2005: 146) says, it’s necessary in qualitative research…

… Because we and the people and things we choose to study are all routinely both producing and awash in seas of discourses, analyzing only individual and collective human actors no longer suffices for many qualitative projects. Increasingly, historical, visual, narrative, and other discourse materials and nonhuman material cultural objects of all kinds must be included as elements of our research and subjected to analysis because they are increasingly understood/interpreted as both constitutive of and consequential for the phenomena we study.

The idea is that as researchers we are able to better account for the different locations our information comes from and the different forms it takes (documents, media, televisual material, interviews). This means that we can use situational analysis to understand different forms of information – for example, historical, social, geographical, dgital information – in one study. This would be a ‘multisite’ study or research project. The idea is that situational analysis can help qualitative researchers to develop new methods, across the sciences, humanities and professional fields (Clarke, 2005: 146).

Clarke (2005: 146) calls this ‘qualitative analysis after the postmodern turn’, in which postmodernism is understood as the historical, theoretical shift towards understanding people, their experiences and their social environment through the lens of discourse analysis and relationships of power. Discourse analysis allows us to imagine that, as human beings  we are already and always will be engaged in an ongoing, complex, often contradictory process of becoming who we are, and this occurs in relation to other people, social institutions, social rules and regulations, constructs of gender, class, ethnicity, race and other personal and the professional power relationships we are involved in.

Understanding these different influences and elements is the work of bricoleurs:

Bricoleurs assemble project-appropriate tool kits from a broad repertoire of available concepts and approaches—selecting what they believe are “the right tools for the job.” We need to keep in mind, of course, that the “tools,” the “job,” and the “rightness” are all constructions, always already emergent and changing (Clarke, 2005: 147).

In the context of our project situational analysis will allow us to use diverse approaches and analytical tools, and take into account different types of discourse – particularly policy discourse, (i.e the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy) academic discourse (i.e. ‘moral economies’) and social enterprise discourse.

Grounded theory 

Clarke uses the terms ‘situational analysis’ and ‘grounded theory’ together to describe her approach. This is because situational analysis builds on grounded theory. Grounded theory involves the construction of theory from rigorous data analysis. It sounds and is quite complicated but it’s aim is to help close the gap between theory and empirical research or the things, people and stories researchers encounter in real life.

The goal of grounded theorists is to develop theory which is more than just description (Goulding, 2002: 42). Goulding adapts the theory of management and business practices, and says it should:

1. Enable prediction and explanation of behaviour

2. Be useful in theoretical advances in sociology 

3. Be applicable in practice 

4. Provide a perspective on behaviour 

5. Guide and provide a style for research on particular areas of behaviour 

6. Provide clear enough categories and hypothesis so that crucial ones can be verified in present and future research (Goulding, 2002: 43).

It is the combination of the groundedness of interpretation with the systematic handling of data that makes grounded theory and situational analysis robust approaches in qualitative research (Clarke, 2011: 147).

To clarify, this formulation of theory shouldn’t be interpreted as discovering some pre-existing ‘reality’, rather we can understand truths as ‘enacted’ and ‘theories’ as interpretations.

… interpretations are temporarily constraint. They should always be seen as provisional and subject to future elaboration, and it should be recognised that they are limited in time; they may become outdated or in need of qualification (Goulding, 2011: 43).

These research methodologies are about keeping an open mind and taking into account the many different elements of our environment when trying to understand particular things. As we attempt to understand how social enterprise organisations support the well-being, education and training and work opportunities of marginalised young people we will need to take into account:

  • the social and geographical location of the social enterprise organisation;
  • the history and structure of the organisation;
  • what role arts-based programs play, and are intended to play, in young peoples transitions;
  • how stakeholders and young people understand the organisation and their role;
  • what type of artistic practice these programs engage;
  • the role non-human material cultural objects play for the people involved;
  • the affective environment that is generated by the organisation and those involved.

References

Clarke, A. (2005) Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Postmodern Turn, Sage: California.

Goulding, C. (2002) Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide for Management, Business and Market Researchers, Sage: London.

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Call for participants: Australian Social Enterprise Project, RMIT and Melbourne University

Are you a stakeholder/manager/coordinator/teacher in an Australian Social Enterprise? Do you run programs that have an arts (fashion, dance, visual arts, creative writing, crafts, drama) component? We invite you to participate in our research project funded by the Australian Research Council.

Participation will involve a one-on-one interview of approximately 1 hour  (or less) in length with a member of the project team (listed in the above flyer).

The purpose of the research is to understand how social enterprises engaged in arts activities manage education, training and work transitions, and support the health and well-being of young people.

Please contact Perri Campbell for further information at Perri.Campbell@rmit.edu.au


 

 

Call for US participants: supporting young people’s transitions through community engagement program


The purpose of this research is to understand how Social Enterprises and Community Organisations build social justice/community concerns into their education and employment programs for young people, and how young people shape future career aspirations with their community in mind.

We are looking for people located on the West Coast of the US to participate in our research project.

If you part of a social enterprise or community organization that offers programs to young people or you are participating in a program and are interested in sharing your experiences, or would like more information please email Perri.Campbell@rmit.edu.au

Participation will involve a one-on-one interview of approximately 1 hour (or less) in length with Dr Perri Campbell (RMIT University, Australia), Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI), the University of California Berkeley, between the 1st of October and 30th of November, 2017.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

Perri

Research Fellow

ARC Discovery Project: Arts Based Social Enterprise and Marginalised Young People’s Transitions, School of Education.

Twitter: @Perri_Campbell and Social Enterprise Project @YouthASE

https://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/c/campbell-dr-perri

 

Victorian State Policy and Social Enterprise 2017 – Part 2

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The Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy, 2017

In our last post we discussed the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy (SES) and its focus on social finance options, specialist intermediaries and social procurement. In this second post we take a look at how international social enterprise strategies have inspired Victoria’s SES and what the strategies ‘next steps’ involve.

But before we delve into these issues it might be useful to remind you what the Victorian SES is all about. The strategy frames social enterprises (SEs) as a way of promoting innovation, entrepreneurialism and productivity:

‘The growth of the social enterprise sector improves productivity through innovation, by adapting old business models to meet the needs of Victoria’s changing economy. Social enterprise helps maximise the productive use of our human capital through increased workforce participation’ (SES, 2017: 2).

Between 2011 and 2016 the Federal Government allocated $20 million in Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF). Recently, this initiative was evaluated and it was recommended that social finance options (grant finance, patient capital and early-stage risk capital) were provided to SEs along with business capability development for social enterprises. The evaluation also recommended supporting ‘specialist intermediaries’ and ‘social procurement’. While this kind of support has a role to play in developing Australia’s social enterprise sector, in our last post we discussed how supporting intermediaries rather than SEs runs the risk of undercutting funding to SEs.

In the SES there was also a recommendation that the impact of social enterprises be measured. We questioned how the impact of SEs would be measured, because impact in the social context is not always quantifiable or easy to measure. Funding and impact were listed as key elements of growing the social enterprise ecosystem in Victoria (SES, 2017: 9).

Now lets turn our attention to the international policies and strategies influencing Victoria’s SES.

Drawing inspiration from international social enterprise strategy

Victoria’s Social Enterprise Strategy takes direction from Canada, the UK and the Scottish Government’s recently released (2016) social enterprise strategy. The Victorian SES states that:

‘The Scottish Government has been a leader for many years in establishing a supportive environment and eco-system for social enterprises. They have made small, targeted investments for huge dividends and are currently in the consultation phase of developing a new 10-year social enterprise strategy for Scotland to build on their successes. With a comparable population Scotland’s social enterprise sector employs over 112,000 people, compared to Victoria’s estimated 75,000’ (SES, 2017: 11).

The Victorian strategy presents Scotland as a leader in creating the right conditions for social enterprises to emerge and thrive through small targeted investments. They draw comparisons between the populations of  Scotland and Australia as well as how many people the social enterprise sectors employ. For instance, in terms of gender balance in the social enterprise workforce Scotland is said to lead the way. It is interesting that compared with the corporate sector, social enterprise sectors in Scotland and in Victoria show a more equitable pay scale and involvement of both men and women in different leadership roles.

’60 per cent of chief executive roles in Scottish social enterprises are occupied by women compared to just 17 per cent of women in chief executive roles in Australian companies’ (SES, 2017: 11).

Scotland’s targeted investments have been paired with a 10-year investment plan which includes:

  1. The Social Entrepreneurs Fund – From Ideas to Action. £1 million – to provide capital and business support for new social enterprise ideas
  2. Just Enterprise program – £3 million for business support and £4 million enterprise investment fund – both managed by consortia of Scottish intermediaries
  3. 2015 First census of Scotland’s social enterprises
  4. Support for Social Enterprise Networks – there are now 20 across Scotland (SES, 2017: 11)

Scotland’s social enterprise policy can be found here. We’ll take a closer look at this in upcoming posts…

The Victorian Government also looks to Canada and the UK to support their investment in the business capabilities of social enterprises. However, it is a little concerning that this type of investment emphasises profit and gears funding towards organisations that work with social enterprises, and not primarily the social enterprises themselves.

In Canada, state jurisdictions look to foster the business capabilities of social enterprise through better access to training for proponents, business support and services, facilitation of access to government services, awareness building of the sector and improving access to finance to enable businesses to both start-up and grow.

Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy Key Action Areas

As we’ve said, the Victorian SES seems to be pushing for the development of social enterprise business practice and broader policy frameworks with economic profit and growth in mind. Alongside this, the Government is keen to formalise partnerships between the sector and the State.

In order to achieve these goals the strategy outlines three key action areas:

  • Key area 1: ‘Increasing impact and innovation’

This  involves: supporting innovation, promoting and connecting social enterprises and raising awareness, and growing the social enterprise eco-system. The idea here is to make government programs more readily available and relevant to social enterprises. This approach is to be supported by a research program aimed at understanding how social impact is valued. The SES states that:

‘This will include an indepth study and mapping of Victorian social enterprises to better understand their demographics and impact, including representation of women in the workplace and in management roles, and exploration of appropriate economic modelling’ (SES, 2017: 15).

A study of how social impact can be valued could be useful, especially one which considers the meaning of social impact and how ‘value’ is attached to things, events, people and programs would be best. This would be a critical engagement with social impact. It is unclear at this stage precisely what form the program of research will take. The strategy indicates that it will be formative and look to influence future policy and economic models which social enterprises may then be encouraged to adopt.

  • Key area 2: ‘Building business capacity and skills’

This key area focuses on encouraging self-sufficiency, strengthening intermediary services, building the skills and capacities of social enterprises, and enhancing the enabling role of the government. The SES states that:

‘The government will facilitate the creation of a skills development program for social enterprise SME founders and managers – supporting the viability, sustainability and growth of the SME’ (SES, 2017: 16).

The concern here for us, is that many social enterprises are over-workshopped and over-trained and need actual funding rather than these types of programs. Again, funding goes to the intermediaries, as the strategy says:

The government will provide pilot funding to test new initiatives supporting the development of the intermediary sector to provide specialist business support, advice, mentoring and signposting to social enterprise networks, investors and buyers’ (SES, 2017: 16).

  • Key area 3:  ‘Improving market access’

This means that attempts will be made by the State to decrease the financing barriers social enterprises in Victoria face by boosting investment opportunities and creating opportunities for competitive social enterprises to deliver goods and services. The word competitive indicates that SEs will be encouraged to compete with fellow SE organisations. This may have its benefits, however it may also go against the grain of basic social enterprise ideas and philosophy to work with and not against others orgs in creating social value and impact.

This third key area involves a number of steps, like developing a Social Procurement Framework:

‘The government will develop a whole of government social procurement framework to leverage public investment in supporting social outcomes. The project aims to provide whole of government purchasing guidance to departments and agencies regarding opening more accessible tender and procurement opportunities to social enterprise SMEs. It will also work on the creation of a broader framework for considering the economic and social value from working with social enterprises’ (SES, 2017: 16).

And other services and structures will be developed to help identify SEs, such as a ‘recognition scheme’ and an ‘online matching service’: 

‘Social Enterprise Recognition: The government will support the development of a recognition scheme to help identify social enterprises and build the confidence of buyers, creating a directory-like information source identifying Victorian social enterprises’.

‘Marketplace Partnering – On-line Matching Platform and On-ground Events Calendar. The government will facilitate the development of an on-line partnering platform to link government and corporate buyers with social enterprise and support a calendar of metropolitan and regional market place events to link buyers with social enterprise’ (SES, 2017: 17).

While these will be useful in providing SEs with potential financial partners, backers or donations this does risk commercialising the sector, especially if SEs are increasingly pushed to compete, to turn a profit and develop business models hatched in the corporate world.

It may also be the case, as in any market, that some social enterprises will benefit from being supported and included in a ‘network’, while others who do not meet the requirements may be excluded. Some social enterprise missions will be valued over others. Different forms of social value may not be recognised through the research evaluation program, particularly if value is tied intrinsically to profit.

Concerns and Questions

The Victorian Strategy states that social enterprises support workforce participation of marginalised groups and improve social cohesion. In many ways social enterprises do address these issues, however the strategy indicates a shift towards the formalisation of the responsibility for these issues resting with SEs. The concern here is that:

  • such a strategic move displaces Victorian State government responsibility to address these issues onto the community and the individuals involved in running social enterprises. The strategy mobilises a neo-liberal political approach to significant social and economic problems by responsibilising individuals and the community.
  • While the State looks to take on a measure of responsibility itself, the way in which is does so in concerning: it indicates a shift toward profit-driven welfare, which can actually entrench poverty and exacerbate inequalities between those who manage and run social enterprises and those who are supposed to benefit.
  • Government support for the sector may have its benefits and its downfalls. Particular ways of doing social enterprise will be encouraged, this includes being a competitive social enterprise. The risk is that increased competition in the social enterprise sector, like any other business sector, may affect performance and quality, and may impact on the experience of participants involved in the programs that social enterprises support.

How can social enterprises be best supported to fulfill their social mission?

Is the value and social good of social enterprise something that should be tied to economic profit? If so, then how?

Victorian State Policy and Social Enterprise 2017 – Part 1

This post is part one of a two part post about the recently released Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy, 2017.

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Social enterprise is perceived as an innovative response to funding challenges that non-profit organisations increasingly face as they attempt to solicit private donations, and government and foundation grants. The concept is used to emphasise the innovative dimensions of projects and the risks that they are taking. A wide variety of organisations are engaged in social enterprise activities: ‘from for-profit businesses engaged in socially beneficial activities (corporate philanthropy) to non-profit organisations engaged in mission-supporting commercial activity’ (Defourny and Nyssens, 2006: 4).

Social enterprises ‘main purpose is not the maximisaton of profit but the attainment of certain economic and social goals’  (Muñoz and Tinsley, 2008: 44).

Introduction

In Australia in recent years, social enterprises have been positioned in many goverrnement, community and business discussions as significant sites for youth engagement, training, and social inclusion. In 2017 the Labour State Government of Victoria released their Social Enterprise Strategy. The policy, in part, states that rates of employment and community engagement among marginalised groups of young people in Australia will be a key indicator used to evaluate social enterprise benefit/outcomes.

The Victorian Government Social Enterprise Strategy (SES) is framed by a concern for the employment opportunities provided to young people entering the workforce. The Minister for Industry and Employment Wade Noonan notes that ‘jobseekers’ are ‘at risk of being left behind’ with young people facing declining opportunities for meaningful participation in the workforce. Noonan suggests that the that the Victorian social enterprise sector has a substantial role to play as government alone can not solve: 

Our most pressing social challenges – including unemployment, homelessness and disadvantage …

Many of our brightest and most innovative people are working tirelessly every day to find new ways to solve these problems. Through the extraordinary efforts of Victoria’s thriving social enterprise sector, we are drawing maximum dividend from our economy and applying business skills to a social mission (SES, 2017: 1).

The new Strategy understands social enterprise aims and goals as mostly financial:

While social entrepreneurs often require financial support or assistance to get their business off the ground, the goal of social enterprises is to become commercially self-sustaining. Sustainable operations are vital to the social enterprise model and international experience demonstrates the ongoing dividend, which is gained from well-targeted policy to assist sustainability (SES, 2017: 2).

 

Social procurement

The State Government supports social enterprise activity by: supporting social enterprise intermediaries, through social procurement initiatives, and through investment in social enterprises.

  • Social enterprise intermediaries

The Victorian Government states that social enterprise intermediaries provide support and guidance to social enterprises in identifying and adopting:

workable business models and legal structures, accessing appropriately experienced mentors, and successfully demonstrating economic and social impact (SES, 2017: 7). 

The majority of Australian social enterprise intermediaries are located in Victoria, and include: Social Ventures Australia (SVA) (which supports SecondBite, Ganbina and STREAT); the Difference Incubator; the Social Enterprise Academy (SEA); and the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE).

Social Traders: Established in 2008, jointly funded by the Dara Foundation and the Victorian State Government, Social Traders has established itself as the leading organisation supporting social enterprise in Australia, providing a diverse range of services to develop and grow the sector.

LaunchVic: A Victorian Government initiative, LaunchVic supports Victoria’s globally recognised, thriving start-up culture, and supports entrepreneurs to develop and grow businesses, including social enterprises.

Problems arise as social intermediaries are now the recipients of more funding than social enterprises themselves and are over-represented in the sector. Most intermediaries don’t provide pro bono support here – but charge social enterprises for this kind of consultancy. As a result they receive funding at both ends, from government and from social enterprises.

  • Social procurement

The Victorian Government social procurement initiative aims to leverage the purchasing power of the state government. It claims that the initiative

adds value by intentionally generating a social outcome when goods or services are purchased, and ensures that wider government goals can be aligned with procurement’ (SES, 2017: 7). 

The social procurement approach has been used by the Victorian Government’s Level Crossing Removal Authority to create New Employment and Exchange Training Centre (NEXT). The Strategy cklaims that NEXT operates as:

a hub for a range of social procurement services, including career and transition advice services. The project is estimated to create 2000 new jobs, with at least 200 being apprentices or graduate engineers. The NEXT centre will provide opportunities to re-skill people from transitioning industries, such as automotive workers, and students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, including indigenous Victorians and migrants (SES, 2017: 7).

Major Victorian government infrastructure delivery agencies, such as the Level Crossing Removal Authority and the Western Distributor Project require a Social Procurement Plan from project delivery partners.

  • Social Impact Investment for Sustainability

Launched in 2016, this Sustainability Victoria initiative provides a combination of grants and low interest loans to investment-ready social enterprises working in the environment space. Investments are designed to create new jobs and training opportunities, respond to climate change, avoid and recover waste and improve resource efficiency in Victorian communities (SES, 2017: 6).

Increasingly government funding is shifting toward this kind of investment, or debt finance, rather than actual funding, which can put further financial stress on nonprofits.  This type of investment is paired here with a Sustainability focus which may exclude a range of social enterprises from applying for funding.

 

The limitations of the Social Enterprise Strategy

In terms of the track record that we bring to this project (see for example, Working in Jamie’s Kitchen: Salvation, Passion and Young Workers), and the significant research undertaken on/with social enterprises (see for example, Art as Enterprise: Social and Economic Engagement in Contemporary Art), we want to suggest that the framing of social enterprise in this Strategy should raise a number of concerns. In the first instance, the Strategy takes a profit-focused approach to social enterprise and does not fully account for hybrid models of social enterprise. This approach runs counter to the reality of the social enterprise sector worldwide, as only 30% of all social enterprises run at a profit. This has the effect of diminishing the value of non-profit yielding social enterprises and increasing the pressure on all social enterprises to turn a profit. The downstream effects of this pressure will be felt by the very participants social enterprises aim to support. Ironically, the strategy begins with a concern for the employment prospects of young people, but in reality may undermine the chances of young people, the quality of social enterprise programs and the functionality of the social enterprise sector. There are further negative implications for those social enterprises working with greater levels of marginalisation and disadvantage who bring together funding as well as self-generated revenues.

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, the strategy places significant emphasis on supporting intermediaries and business development training (often run through intermediaries) with almost no government funding for social enterprises themselves. The small amount of funding being provided seems to be geared toward debt finance or ‘investment’ rather than actual funding. This continues a pattern of policy-making and funding decisions in the sector that has led to an explosion of intermediaries while social enterprises themselves struggle.

We will take up these and other issues in subsequent posts.

 

Image by Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia – Recession Hits, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25652544

 

 

 

 

Our research project

Greetings from the project team!

This is a blog for our Australian Research Council Discovery Project titled: ‘Arts Based Social Enterprises and Marginalised Young People’s Transitions’.

We will use this blog to post updates and information about the project. We are keen to hear your feedback so please post a comment if you wish to do so.

The project team consists of:

Professor Peter Kelly, Director Centre for Education, Training and Work in the Asian Century, School of Education, RMIT University, peter.kelly@rmit.edu.au

Dr Grace McQuilten, Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow, Centre for Art, Society and Transformation, School of Art, RMIT University, grace.mcquilten@rmit.edu.au

Associate Professor Kim Humphery, Design and Social Context, Centre for Applied Social Research, School of Global Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, kim.humphery@rmit.edu.au

Dr Deborah Warr, Associate Professor and Australian Research Coucil Future Fellow, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne,  djwarr@unimelb.edu.au

Dr Perri Campbell, ARC Discovery Project Research Fellow, Centre for Education, Training and Work in the Asian Century, School of Education, RMIT University, perri.campbell@rmit.edu.au

If you have a question about our project or would like to get in contact with the team you can email us at: artsocialenterprise@rmit.edu.au

We will also be posting updates via Twitter, you can follow us @YouthASE

What do we want to Research…and Why?

In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis young people have been disproportionately affected by unemployment and precarious employment. The most marginalised young people make up more than 55% of those unemployed for more than a year.

The project will analyse how art-based social enterprise (ASE) organisations manage education, training and work transitions, and develop the health and well-being of marginalised young people.

We will study the specific education and employment outcomes achieved for young people situated in these alternative learning settings. Social enterprises (SE) are a rapidly expanding sector of the Australian economy with 20,000 programs currently operating. Using a longitudinal, critical case methodology the project will provide sector stakeholders with a strong evidence base to develop long-term strategy for innovative policy and engagement practice.

Why does the research matter?

This study aims to deliver outcomes that will inform industry policy (at State and Federal levels) in relation to social enterprises. It aims also to inform, how engagement in art based social enterprise programs can promote the social and economic participation, education, training and work pathways, and physical and mental health and well-being of marginalised young Australians. The project will make innovative and significant contributions to the development and deployment of Social Enterprise based interventions that target the education, training, employment and health and well-being issues of marginalised young Australians. The project will importantly contribute to building ‘healthy and resilient communities throughout Australia’ by developing ‘preventative strategies’ to improve the physical and mental health and well-being of young people.

You can find some our previous research on Social Enterprises and Transitional Labour Market Programs by clicking on the titles of the following working papers:

Social Enterprise: challenges and opportunities

Transitional Labour Market Programs: challenges and opportunities

The problem of Aboriginal marginalisation : education, labour markets and social and emotional well-being

And our 2014 ARC Linkage Project Report:

Capacity Building and Social Enterprise: Individual and Organisational Transformation in Transitional Labour Market Programs