Current problems with unemployment and the consequences of cut-down in the public sector need appropriate solutions, where private citizens perhaps take on more active roles than today, individually or in groups. The aim with this doctoral thesis is to contribute to one such solution, which is a cooperation model for societal development in local communities, based on Total Quality Management (TQM) and on the participation of many residents. The model is gradually developed with the help of collected experiences and opinions from three stakeholder groups in two different Swedish communities, as well as from general theories and literature. These groups are the quality-project initiators, the community residents and the local politicians. The disposition of the thesis is accordingly. The thesis contains two case studies. The first one concerns the use of TQM as a support of societal development in a local community. The improvement work is conducted within a non-profit organisation built on voluntary engagement. These experiences have then been compared, in the second case study, to the ones in another community where TQM is not used, but where the ambitions are the same. Here the framework for the improvement work is both a non-profit organisation and a for-profit one. The analyses indicate that TQM can be used with success within societal development, even if some of its tools or methodologies are interpreted in new ways, or not used at all. As TQM should be applied with regard to the type of organisation and its purpose, a certain flexibility is both expected and helpful. As far as management is concerned, the leadership needs to be “softer” and more diplomatic when managing unpaid volunteers, as compared to the situation in a commercial enterprise. Another observation is that the societal work is best conducted within groups, defined by situations or activities in life or in the society. An active resident can join a group according to interest. This is a modified version of the “quality circles” inherent to TQM. In a separate, and more theoretical study, the issue of adopting TQM to new sectors in society is discussed. In both the studied societies, there are difficulties to get residents involved or active, which puts into question the mandate with a large community project that aims at improving the quality of life for all residents. There are also difficulties with finding and renewing the leadership, and with communication with, above all, local politicians. Nevertheless, these politicians are in general positive to private initiatives like the ones in the two communities, and consider such projects very important for the future development of rural areas. They think that the experienced weaknesses can be reduced if the improvement work is distinctly defined and organised, if information and communication improve, and if the active residents become more educated about the procedures and limitations of the political governing of the communities. These and other observations of the two communities lead to a model where a cooperation between societal stakeholders develop in three phases; the start-up, the establishment and the continuation of the work. Each phase is discussed separately, and advice is given how to avoid, or meet, various problems that are likely to appear along the way.
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2004. , 154 p.