ABSTRACT. The concepts of “transparency” and “evidence of what works” are key features to the implementation and success of the open public service policy launched by the UK coalition government in 2010. This paper explores, from the perspective of the third sector, the meaning of these concepts and how we can expect them to be operationalized. Initially, a request for increased transparency based on evidence of what works seems reasonable and ethical. The principles of transparency and evidence-based policy can contribute to the public good through providing a basis for trust between different stakeholders. However, we know little about the context in which the policy of transparency is implemented. From the perspective of the individual organization, sharing information may expose them to the control and judgment by outsiders. Based on a review and analysis of government documents published in relation to the policy of open public services, the paper identifies key drivers and assumptions behind the importance given to transparency in an increasingly complex context of welfare services. Rather than exploring the technical aspects of transparency-regulation the paper argues that relations and organizational context are key to understanding how such regulation affects organizational behavior. More specifically four areas that constitute part of TSOs’ context are investigated: evidence based policy making; evaluation methods; “disclosure logics;” and institutional culture. The paper identifies some key research questions that highlight the challenges faced by third sector organizations in this context. pp. 7–24
JEL codes: D6; H53; I38; R13

Keywords: transparency; evidence; evaluation; third sector organizations; open public services-reform; institutional culture

How to cite: Arvidson, Malin (2017), “Operationalizing Transparency: Perspectives from the Third Sector in a Mixed Economy of Welfare,” Journal of Self-Governance and Management Economics 5(1): 7–24.

Received 24 August 2015 • Received in revised form 28 January 2016
Accepted 28 January 2016 • Available online 25 February 2016


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School of Social Work,
Lund University

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