Reducing the Impact of Major Organizational Change Among Senior Center Participants

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This exploratory study presents findings from a sample of eleven senior centers that underwent the transition from direct government operations to nonprofit sponsorship. Data was gathered through focus group interviews with senior center members. Through these interviews, members' reactions to the change in sponsorship were sought. Areas focused on included food and meal service, the physical facility, staffing and programs. Broader themes emerged from the interviews, with significance beyond the contracting of these senior centers. These themes provide insight into the impact of major organizational change through the eyes of the clients of those organizations. Emphasized through a cross-case analysis are issues that organizational sponsors must address when planning major organizational change, in order to reduce stress upon the participants. These include: the need to communicate a compelling reason for the change; developing a positive connection to the new sponsor on the part of the participants; creating concrete improvements in the services that members can point to; and, recognizing the strong bond with prior operational methods by participants with a prior claim to membership. The exploratory nature of this study, and the limited sample focusing on senior centers suggest the need for further inquiry. However, this qualitative study, using grounded theory techniques, provides information for practitioners planning major organizational change. The themes revealed by the participants are compared to themes expressed in the literature for staff resistance to change. The importance of considering participant resistance to change is stressed in planning and implementing a successful change effort. © 1999 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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Journal of Gerontological Social Work

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