An investigation into reproduction and transformation in the field of disability sport, Australia and New Zealand

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Across the globe, many sports organizations operate within a constant state of change. This presentation reports on a study that examined how institutional pressures fostered both reproduction and transformation within an organizational field of disability sport. Bourdieu’s practice theory formed the conceptual framework that provided a critical and relational analysis of change. Despite having a broad oeuvre Bourdieu’s master concepts (Swartz, 2008) were used primarily to examine the what, the how and the why of change, as it occurred across multiple levels (institutional, organizational, and individual) of analysis (Kitchin & Howe, 2013; Skille & Skirstad, 2007). Field and capital have been well covered in the sport management literature (O’Brien & Slack, 2003, 2004; Sherry, 2010; Spaiij, 2013) however doxa and habitus require some further elaboration. Doxa and habitus are both central to understanding Bourdieu’s field concept. Doxa represents the values and discourses that represent the fundamental principles of a field, while habitus is the inculcation of a generative system of dispositions of the individuals who populate the field. The relationship between habitus, doxa and field is mutually reinforcing. By using practice theory this research makes a novel contribution to institutionally-informed change researchInstitutional approaches to the study of organizational change in sport management are well established (Slack & Hinings, 1992; O’Brien & Slack, 2003, 2004; Washington & Patterson, 2011). O’Brien and Slack (2004) examined field level change in English rugby union following the advent of professionalisation. Using isomorphism to examine these changes they found that initially mimetic isomorphism dominated changes, but as the logic of professionalization took hold greater scope was possible for inter-organizational linkages to facilitate coercive and normative isomorphic change to occur. Both Skille (2011) and Stenling (2013) have found that while insightful isomorphism via diffusion does not adequately address why organizations differ in their response to institutional pressures. Building upon these studies I seek to reveal how observed variations between individual organizations can contribute to this understanding. The following question guided the research; what factors can facilitate organizational transformation in a field of disability sport.An ethnography was conducted within organizations belonging to a field of disability sport. Previous sport management scholars have found the ethnographic approach beneficial for accessing insider accounts of sport management phenomena, as they occur (Skinner, et al., 1999; Spaiij, 2013). Three years of fieldwork gathered data from active-member observations, formal and informal interviews and document analysis. Coffey and Atkinson’s (1996) guidelines for the management and analysis of the data collected were followed.From applying this social and institutional analysis to a field of disability sport it was found that ethos, beliefs and values about the role and importance of sport existed independently at institutional (doxa), organizational (doxa) and individual (habitus) levels. An organization’s doxa was relational, as it was linked both to their collective identity and the position they occupied within the field of disability sport. Each doxa influenced, in some fashion the organizational and individual decision-making process. The research emphasised the importance of an individual’s previous life experience in the formulation of strategies that transformed organizational and institutional power relations. It concludes empirically that the adoption or resistance to institutional pressures is dependent on the interlinking relationships between institutions, organizations and individuals. When an organizational identity does not conform to the institutional doxa, transformation can occur more readily. From observations in this research organizational identity differs when the staff that comprise the organization have more diverse life experiences, reinforcing the importance of diversity in facilitating transformation within and between organizations. This study implies that governing bodies need to be aware of the diversity of organizational forms and specific practices when seeking to facilitate change, as failure to do so will limit the success of change initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2014
EventSport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 1 Jan 2014 → …


ConferenceSport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand
Period1/01/14 → …


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