Being compassionate. Institutionalizing through values work in a faith-based organization
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This study extends the emergent stream of values work by theorizing a process of value inquiry that links the facts of a situation with the ideals of institutional social engagement and the common good. The value inquiry is identified as an open-ended process of questioning, reframing, and reinterpreting the dominant value frames. Through investigating values work in a faith-based health care organization in Norway, this study finds that the questioning of dominant value frames opens the possibility of reconsidering what constitutes the beliefs of the organization and of finding a meaningful way to re-frame its value-creating activities. In questioning the value frames, the actors move beyond a linear view of institutional complexity to recognize how values and organizational agency are both maintained and revised in the face of conflicting demands. The social order that emerges is driven by the creative discernment of people who are empowered to act in accord with the demands and possibilities of the situation, rather than out of obedience and rule following. In this way, the process leads toward a deliberation of ethical standards and contributes to a richer moral discourse. This study finds the process of value inquiry to be evident throughout the organization’s history as changing circumstances have been balanced against compassionate organizational aims. This process has resulted in an emerging and inherent institutional logic of compassion composed of a multiplicity of “value spheres.” Judgment of the validity of these values is a “matter of faith,” by which individuals seek and claim to be instruments of practice. The process of value inquiry is explored as a shuttling between the telling of sacred stories and the doing of sacred practice. The values are found to reside partly in the narrative unconscious and partly in pre-reflective corporeal action. An understanding of the sacred stories and practices becomes a major driver in institutional maintenance, ethical agency, and the institutionalizing of compassion. Paper I: Espedal, G. (2019). Wide awake housekeepers on duty: The institutional logic of compassion in a faith-based organization. Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, 32(1), 22-39. DOI: 10.18261/issn.1890-7008-2019-01-02 Paper II: Espedal, G., & Carlsen, A. (2019). Don’t pass them by: Figuring the sacred in organizational values work. Journal of Business Ethics, DOI:10.1007/s10551-019-04266-w Paper III: Espedal, G., Carlsen, A., & Askeland, H. (2019). How do we reach out to those we are here for? Value inquiry in sustaining institutions. In preparation for submission.