Toward a Theory of Loosely Coupled Systems: The Implementation of Federal Youth Employment Policies

Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten




This study is a preliminary examination of the inter-relationships between individually held subgoals and the output of services in ten federally sponsored work-oriented education programs. The first chapter introduced the concept of slippage as an organizing device. A theory of slippage in loosely coupled systems, based on Herbert Simon's subgoal hypothesis, was discussed in Chapter II, while the next chapter presented a research design for a preliminary testing of the hypothesis. The last two chapters presented the data collected with a 40-item questionnaire administered to participants at ten sites.

One of the most central conclusions so far is that the level of output for a given service at a given site, or, for that matter, for the overall average of all services offered by a specific project, does appear to be tied directly and indirectly to the subgoals of the staff at the site--that is, to the professional, organizational and personal subgoals of the street-level bureaucrats involved.

This chapter seeks to move the research into the arena of public policy. Examined here are the conditions that affect individual sub goals in such ways as to influence outputs and, consequently, slippage. The chapter seeks to identify those factors that are most likely to be susceptible to federal influence. While the chapter draws on the quantitative findings of the participant survey, it relies primarily on the qualitative nature of the basic case studies, that is, quotations, anecdotes and insights drawn from the Cornell site protocols.

1. Approach

One way of dealing with these issues would a site-by-site analysis to determine the relationships between staff subgoals, project output targets and service delivery. Sites would then be grouped according to apparent commonalities and the identified patterns discussed. Another way would be to examine a set of concepts identified from the research to this point, and to analyze the relationships, drawing on information from all sites.

Both methods have virtues. As discussed in Chapter III, the individual-site approach permits greater insight into the dynamics of each project, but might not lead to policy-relevant generalizations. The conceptual approach explicitly seeks to develop generalizations, a process that sometimes results in loss of the flavor and character of each site.

The concept approach was selected for two general reasons. First, previous chapters have dealt to some extent with site analysis and cross- site comparisons. Second, the conceptual approach seems to lend itself more directly to the kinds of policy and research conclusions that are the aim of this study.



"I enjoy working in this school, but it demands a lot of a person in terms of time and energy ... time I'm not going to give completely because I want my own life too."

-Staff Member
Project A

"Maybe the Director should spend more of her time on helping the kids who are in the program now and less on getting funds that will help kids who may be here three years from now."

-Staff Member
  Project B

"I've got to place students who live 15 miles away from here and who don't have cars. There just aren't that many jobs out there."

-Staff Member
  Project E

Scarcity is a central organizing concept in economics. In basic terms, scarcity means that wants and needs are greater than resources.

How to increase resources and how to allocate scarce resources to meet competing needs are major economic concerns.
In classic organizational theory, scarcity should not apply to the individual production worker in a well-managed firm. By definition, the worker is provided with clearly defined tasks and with the necessary re sources to do the required work at a desired level of efficiency.

That model bears little resemblance to the situation of the street- level bureaucrat in a loosely coupled, social service system. At best, needs are vaguely defined, sometimes contradictory, and invariably re quire more resources than those available to the staff member.

Each of the Youthwork projects studied promised to deliver sixteen distinct services. In addition, the staff were also delivering other services required by the host organizations or that the staff perceived to be needed by youths. The reality is that even the most dedicated and industrious staff, under the best of conditions, was unable to deliver every service at the prescribed level. Part of the explanation may well involve scarcity.

1. Scarce Resources

Five resources appear to have been of primary concern to project staff. The first four apply to all projects and are "time, energy, skills, and good will." The fifth is project specific. At one site, for example, there was a severe shortage of jobs for youth; at another, eligible youth themselves were in short supply. It is important to note here that money per se was not "scarce." In all cases, sufficient funds were available to pay student and staff salaries. In many cases, because enrollments did not reach proposed levels, the projects actually returned money to Youthwork at the end of the contracts.

a. Time

While many people believe that street-level bureaucrats all follow Murphy's law that says, in effect, work expands to fill available time (one implication being that they are underworked), staff at the sites studied were chronically short on time. "There are only 24 hours in a day" was a story heard at all projects, not so much as an excuse or complaint, but as a simple statement of reality. A staff member at Site J observed:

"...We have too many things to do. We are expected to teach our counsel our students on an individual basis and to place every one of our students [jobs], to construct tests and fill out evaluation forms. In addition to all this responsibility, now we are required [the State] to do competency testing every week. My teaching is suffering."

A few days later, a routine staff meeting at the same site was devoted to implementing Youthwork's "knowledge development" (i.e. research) requirements. The staff were told to develop and complete eight forms including: (1) absentee forms; (2) student interview forms; (3) enrollee termination forms; (4) tests for a research control group; (5) a teacher's daily log; (6) student evaluation forms; (7) employer contact forms; and (8) student employer interview forms. It was at about this time that someone pointed out the 24 hours in a day.

At Site A, a low-delivery, high-slippage project, one staff member observed, "Isn't it strange that only 1 of the 20 staff people are married, that they are all under 30 ... It's a high intensity program and a high risk one in terms of burnout." The staff members were unanimous in their belief that the director was wedded to the project, but many resented his expecting them to work seven days a week, ten hours a day. Even he, in a moment of frustration and discouragement, stated he "thought it best if he quit working 90 hours a week."

Complaints about the lack of time were often the direct result of the staff's recognition of the enormous needs of the youths and their own scarcity of time. As one staff member at a high delivery site stated:

I only wish I could spend more time with the students. I visit the schools every morning. I talk to each student every week, not just when they're in trouble. But it isn't enough.

At another site, a staff member explained why she did not do more to link the work site to academic competencies, a requirement of the contract:

They [students] have so much work assigned by the instructor, that I haven't felt it was for me to go in and dream up different ideas to give to the students ... If I thought of assignments to connect with their job sites plus all the work the instructor has given them to do, that wouldn't be fair--it would be a double penalty. They'd be dumb to be involved in our programs.

A student summed up the dilemma caused by scarcity of time candidly. "I need the job and I need the money, but what I really would like is to learn how to read and write."

While staff and student time were central, other persons as well were limited in the amount of services they could offer youth because of the scarcity of time. As one principal answered when asked why he allowed his students to participate in a project he felt was only mediocre:

Principals don't have time for grant writing and even less time for negotiations. We don't have much say in how we get the funds. This is done for us by other people.

Another principal explained that he knew very little about the project and didn't intend to spend much time finding out about it. The project director, the former school superintendent of the area, had assured him things were okay and that was good enough for him. The principal added he spent his time on more pressing problems.

Administrators of projects also were forced to make choices, which thereby affected delivery of services, because of scarcity of time. The Director of Site B stated she "was so consumed by haggling with CETA that her total time was used up. There was no time left to properly supervise the crew leaders who are the mentors in the project...the crew leaders were inadvertently left on their own." This was particularly important at this site because the crew were all in their early twenties with very limited experience.
Employer participation was also limited by scarcity of time. Many of the Youthwork contracts called for the employers to take an active role in teaching students' skills, evaluating them, and participating in planning. For many employers in most locations this was too much. As one employer put it, "I'll take your students, but I'll be damned if I'm going to fill out the forms." Another less cooperative potential employer refused to participate because he feared that he would have to comply with more time consuming federal regulations.

b. Energy

Even though it may be difficult to measure an individual's energy level, energy is, nevertheless, fairly well-recognized as an important resource. Companies frequently advertise for "high-energy" or "high- drive" employees.

While this study did not attempt to measure the energy levels of participants, some sense of these levels can be found in the average strength of the staff's professional subgoals. As noted in a previous chapter, the overall average strength of these subgoals was higher at low- slippage sites than in medium- and high-slippage projects. Indeed, the average scores ranged from a low of 60 at the highest-slippage site to a high of 114 at the lowest-slippage site. The average score for the three low slippage sites was 105; for the medium-slippage, 85, and the high slippage, 78.

Because a person wants to accomplish something does not mean he or she has either the ability or desire to devote energy to achieving the desired goal. In fact, at all sites, delivery fell below what staff on the average wanted. The strong relationships discussed in previous chapters between professional subgoals and delivery does indicate that there may be some relationship between how strongly a person wants to accomplish something, the extent to which he or she devotes energy to it, and what is accomplished.

Absolute time is constant; staff energy levels are not. In fact, there is considerable evidence in the protocols that, at high-slippage sites, staff in many cases were "putting in time." As the director of one project plagued by higher level bureaucratic mismanagement and capricious intervention stated, "The staff were enthusiastic in the fall, but all the delays, confusions, and changes wore them out." The ethnographer observed of an illustrative staff member at that site:

The strain of not knowing whether she was about to be fired, combined with harassment by other teachers, did not help Jessi to organize the newspaper [focus of her assignment].

The director of Site A, the one who wanted to quit working 90 hours,
explained the problem in administering a "soft" money program where funding for each year is not assured.

What happens if I tell a person he or she is fired as of September? If I tell them any time during the school year, I have lost them for the remaining time as effective staff members...because there isn't anything in it for them to perform.

Even where difficulties were not as enormous as they were at these sites, energy levels can decline. A still-enthusiastic staff member at Site B explained why she wasn't as willing to give her all to the project:

My time in the past six months has been spent doing something I'm not particularly trained in, so my enthusiasm has leveled off. Unfortunately, I sometimes deal with those frustrations by back stabbing, talking to other crew leaders and not communicating with the hierarchy.

As suggested by these quotes, part of the explanation for energy dissipation is conflict between personal and professional subgoals. High-slippage sites had staff who indicated a high degree of worry about personal or economic security, while low-slippage sites had few. The more staff worry about personal problems, the less energy they seem to have for delivering services.

On the other hand, at lower-slippage projects, energy levels seemed to increase, or at least remain the same. The number of students served increased and the type of academic credit given to students improved. While all staff showed a need for summer vacation, at these lower slippage sites they were still discussing the needs of students and planning for the future. As one person at Site E (a middle-slippage site) stated about halfway through the year "we might use some of our energy as a group to focus on what a refunding proposal would look like." This compares to several persons at Site F, a high-slippage site, who stated they were glad there would be no funding the next year because they were tired. As one staff person stated "If I had to work here another year I'd go stark raving mad."

c. Skills

Like energy, staff skills may be difficult to measure, but they are real, observable and important scarce resources. Moreover, the skills needed to implement social service programs, such as those sponsored by Youthwork, are not usually interchangeable. A teacher may be excellent at raising students' basic skills competencies, but poor at getting the same students jobs in local industry.

The staff at most of the projects recognized that they often were called on to perform duties for which they were not well qualified. As one person at Site B stated, "We need a curriculum but the staff crew do not have the ability to do it because they are not trained in designing curriculum." At Site J, the site where eight new forms had to be completed, the staff--all regular public school teachers--were expected to get job placements for the students. One teacher pointed out that, because he had no business contacts, he had to go to at least ten employers before getting a slot. Once, he recounted, the school superintendent called up a Chamber of Commerce colleague and got a slot in a few minutes, something the teacher had unsuccessfully attempted several times. The teacher went on to state that because he had to spend so much time and energy getting jobs for students he wasn't able to do what he did best -- teach.

Administrators at several sites were plagued by a lack of expertise in dealing with federal and local bureaucracies. Low-slippage sites seemed uniformly to have someone in a local CETA office who "paved the way" or interpreted the regulations in ways that the project found acceptable. One harried administrator stated the best thing about the CETA person was "she lets us modify the program to meet our needs." At high-slippage sites, the administrators, either because of lack of skills and experience or because of exceptionally confusing local politics, spent enormous amounts of time trying to figure out the system. In each case, the administrator's skills seemed not up to the task.

d. Good will

Although it is no longer the practice, there was a time when "good will" was carried as an asset on business books. Good will is an important scarce resource to most street-level bureaucrats because their ability to do their jobs often depends on the cooperation of others.

Such was clearly the case with Youthwork projects which had to depend on public and private employers to provide jobs; schools to give academic credit; school counselors to make referrals; and federal, state and local governmental agencies to process paper. Where the project or its host organization had developed a reserve of good will, delivery was easier and output higher. Where such good will did not exist, delivery suffered.

Like energy, good will is not a fixed resource. Employers at several sites mentioned, for example, that they'd participate in the program only as long as the counselors sent them "good kids." Staff at most sites were aware of the fragile nature of employer good will. One person, who was personally quite committed to women's liberation, was appalled that a consultant suggested "turning in" employers who insisted on placing girls in traditional or sexist jobs. At another site, the job developer took the ethnographer to a job site where the students were engaged in the apparently illegal action of taking trade names off of television tubes and sending them out as "generics." The job developer spent a great deal of time explaining to the owner that the ethnographer was to be trusted. 

One of the characteristics of low-slippage sites was the willingness and ability to devote considerable time and energy to the maintenance and development of good will among employers and individuals in other organizations. At the highest delivery site, nearly everyone commented on one staff member's willingness to "go the distance" to cooperate. As one principal said, "I can't say enough good things about Ann."

Site B, the project devoted to conservation, needed the cooperation of the local community. To accomplish this, the project staff and students built an entire playground for a local elementary school during the summer.

On the other hand, one very high-slippage site seemed to go out of its way to alienate the good will of the local community. Although the project needed the cooperation of local unions for its success, no one from the staff contacted the union leaders. Many of the staff believed that the project was aimed at "breaking the migrant stream," something that many of the local parents held as a valued way of life.

e. Specific scarcities 

Several sites experienced frustration because specific resources were not available to them. In several of the sites, quality jobs were scarce. One site found that the only jobs available to students were in low skilled positions such as fast food chains. Others, particularly the rural sites, had difficulty getting jobs that could be reached by public transportation.

One Interesting scarce resource in some sites was eligible students. Youthwork required that paid job experience be given only to students whose family incomes were less than 85 percent of the poverty level. Some rural communities found that the income measurement devices excluded many of their potential enrollees. At other sites, particularly the one aimed at "breaking the migrant stream," there were so many other programs that students could pick and choose federal programs to meet their own needs and wants.

2. Scarcity, Individual Subgoals and Slippage

Scarcity of the resources of time, energy, skills, and good will have a direct effect on the delivery of services. If students are not avail able, services will not be provided to them. If jobs are not there, students will not be placed. The direct effects of scarcity on services, however, while a most important topic, are a subject for another study.

What is of concern here is the effect of scarcity on subgoals and, through them, on delivery of services and slippage. Scarcity seems to affect individually held subgoals in three ways: by creating conflict, by displacement, and by enervation.

a. Conflict

Conflict at some level is the necessary result of scarcity. Wants exceed resources; allocation decisions must be made; some wants are not satisfied. At some sites, conflict created by scarcity took the form of creative tension and thereby contributed positively to delivery; at others, the level of conflict was dysfunctional.

Where staff perceived that the time demanded by the project was unduly interfering with personal needs, staff tended to lower commitment to professional subgoals. This tendency was exacerbated when the staff perceived that, despite all their efforts, they were not having much success with students or fulfilling the requirements of the contract. In one case, a staff member wrote to CETA complaining about the project and asking for a site visit. Her letter made clear that she was motivated, in part, because she felt unfairly rewarded and was worried about her job. From citations in the protocols, it was also clear that she had worked very hard to get students academic credit, to find jobs, and to teach remedial subjects, and that she had not felt successful.

At Site A, where the staff thought the director expected 10 hour days, and where the students were particularly troublesome, the entire staff seemed to believe increasingly that participation in the project was harmful to their personal subgoals. Over the year, they devoted increasingly more energy to achieving personal subgoals, and increasingly less time to achieving professional subgoals. Interestingly, they also seemed to grow increasingly worried about personal, professional and economic security. The result was a continual erosion of services provided to students. At those sites where care was taken to meet the personal needs of staff, they were less likely to perceive a conflict between professional and personal subgoals. Where staff had assignments in their areas of expertise, and where they were given some sense of accomplishment, conflict between personal and professional subgoals was diminished. 

b. Enervation

Few things are more enervating than constant perception of failure. In many ways, because of scarcity, the staff at some projects were doomed to some continuing level of failure. Not all subgoals could conceivably be met; not all students could be served; not all jobs could be quality jobs.

At all sites, staff had to settle for less than they wanted. In some cases, the process became a downward spiral. The staff felt they were up against the proverbial brick wall. Some stopped trying and others tried less hard. All accomplished less, tried less, and accomplished still less.

In those cases where the project was able to accommodate some degree of failure, the project was usually able to accomplish a good deal. At the site that faced the apparently insurmountable obstacle of community college resistance to academic credit, the director kept pointing out that "Soc. 101 wasn't so bad and besides, the kids got jobs." This sense of realistic acceptance of some failure seemed to reinforce overall professional subgoals.

c. Displacement

One result of scarcity was displacement of energy from particular sets of professional subgoals to others. This seemed to follow two patterns. Staff focused on those subgoals that were very important to them, without much regard to what the project called for. A second pat tern found successful sites devoting more effort to what might be considered instrumental professional subgoals.

The first pattern was perhaps best exemplified at Site A, a very high-slippage site. As the year progressed and staff energy levels dissipated as a result of frustration and conflict, staff devoted more and more energy to helping youth with their personal problems, providing counseling, and raising aspirations. This was also the staff that devoted increased amount of energy to achieving personal subgoals. Apparently the staff reverted to those subgoals that were personally fulfilling. As one staff member said I don't care about the project or the other staff. I just care about my kids."


I can't think of any way cooperation could be better between us and the schools

-Staff Member
 Project I

This is the first time a program of this nature has been tried at this school. As a result, the faculty, students and parents need time to find out how it works.

-Staff Member
 Project D

I think we had to gain the confidence of the teachers. I think we've done that now. I think public relations work with the schools is really important. In the beginning, no groundwork was done. Imagine how the teachers felt when they found out they were supposed to give a grade to students they hadn't seen all semester. If only we had done our groundwork in the beginning.

-Staff Member
 Project J


1. The Idea of Community

Community refers in this study to the individuals and organizations (1) in the local geographic area served by the project, (2) which are directly or indirectly affected by the project, and/or (3) influence the types of services delivered. As such, it is a rather loose concept, some what akin to phrases such as "the business community," "the academic community" and the "research community." In each project studied, community was an important variable intrinsic to the types of services provided.

2. Pre-Existing Community

All projects operated within a community, or, in some cases, a set of communities. Schools offered education; employers provided jobs; parents gave support for students; and social service agencies provided supplementary services. These communities varied, however, in the value they placed on employment-related services for low-income youth, in how much Individuals knew and respected each other, and in their histories of organizational cooperation. In other words, project communities ranged from tightly knit to loosely coupled. They also varied in the extent to which they found the subgoals of the project compatible with their own subgoals.

The important point, however, and one whose importance is difficult to overestimate, is the extent to which the community within which the project operated was pre-existing. With some projects, the various and separate "communities" with which the project would work (the school community, the business community, the CETA community) were already tied together and woven into a single community that supported the host organization and that played a major role in shaping the project. In other cases, the "community" existed, but needed to expand to include new "communities." Still other projects were not products of a community, but depended for their success on the staff's ability to create and develop such a community of interest, support and cooperation.

While any of the projects could illustrate the importance of the pre-existing community, three seem particularly interesting because they are as far apart as points on an isosceles triangle.

a. Site H: "Accentuating the Positive"

Project H functioned within a community that had been working together to provide employment-related services to youth for ten years before the creation of Youthwork. In 1967, a small group of businessmen in a medium-sized Mid-Western city arranged for summer jobs for youth. The idea became an official project of the Chamber of Commerce which established good working relations with the schools. Over the years, various programs were initiated, often taking the form dictated by available funding. State vocational education funds led to some variant of vocational education; federal career education funds supported career education.

When the Youthwork guidelines were announced, the Chamber of Commerce contacted the schools. A proposal was quickly written. Negotiations with Youthwork were minimal. The project became one of the highest delivery, lowest slippage sites.

One characteristic of the project was near unanimous agreement by community members that the goal of the project was to get, in the words of the director, "some employment skills into the hands of those who may not be employable by the time they either drop out of school or graduate."

In turn, members of the community saw this goal as contributing to their own organizational and professional subgoals. As one businessman put it, "The [allows for the training of individuals at very little cost to me. These students are definitely potential employees."

The schools were happy because the project made a concerted effort to increase student attendance. A staff member explained.

I insist and I tell all my students that they must attend their regular classes during the morning or they can't participate in the program in the afternoon. I check ... on a weekly basis. Unless a student is sick or has a good excuse, if they have not attended their morning classes they will not get paid for attending the Community Based Program in the afternoon.

CETA was happy because the project was well run. Not only did the CETA oversight personnel agree that the project was providing important services, but they didn't have to make time-consuming site visits.

The staff of the project did not take community support for granted. On the survey question, "How important is promoting the project image with the community?" the average score was the highest of any site. The director worked hard, not only at picking staff members who were talented and committed, but also at keeping them informed and involved in planning. Telling why he participated, a local employer stated, "Rita asked me, so I said sure." The staff, in turn, spent considerable effort in maintaining cooperation. One staff member commented that "it seems with some of these programs at the school that the only way they think you're sincere Is If you keep bugging them about what you need."

All was not perfect with the project. In fact, its single biggest failure is a strong example of the need for a compatible pre-existing community. One of the high schools sent very few students and did not want to award academic credit. This was the first project the high school participated in, and, as the director pointed out, "the staff was not involved in the original planning of the proposal.

b. Site E: "Personality is not enough"

Project E was the only project of the ten examined that did not have a pre-existing history. Individual staff members did have long and close relationships throughout the isolated mountain community. For example, the director was the retired superintendent; the job developer a retired shop teacher; the counselor a retired librarian who knew the students' family history back for three generations.

These personal connections served the project well in getting students referred to the program and getting them jobs. The job developer told of how he used his connections and good will:

The first two or three weeks I was continuously busy. I would go out and get three or four sites a day. Of course, the directions said to get on the phone and call people, but I think that makes it too easy for people to say no ... I was successful because I knew all the people in the community.

These personal connections were not sufficient, however, to get institutional cooperation from the local community college. The contract called for the awarding of community college credit to some students for work experience. The project and its staff simply did not have the respect of the college, the staff of which did not, by and large, feel it appropriate to give credit. The project staff devoted enormous effort to developing good will--meeting with faculty, adapting courses to meet requirements of the college, and helping out at college registration. In the end, however, only a few faculty members cooperated--one because he rented an apartment to one of the staff members. It became a standing joke in the project that the only students admitted to the program were those who needed "Soc 101."

The effort required to get what little academic credit they did, however, had harmful effects on the staff. As one of the stronger staff members stated in a moment of desperation, "I wish this whole aspect of the program would blow up." One staff member explained why another member was so cranky: "She's got too much to do." Another stated that unless she got assurances from the college that things would be better next year she would quit. She could not work with the belief that she was misleading the students.

c. Site C: "Oil and water

Project C was a kind of unwanted child thrust on reluctant foster parents. Located in the Southwest, its target population was Mexican- American youths from migrant families. The project's stated goals were to provide the students with enough skills and the promise of permanent jobs so that they would not continue to migrate with their families.

The school in which the project operated was not enthusiastic. As the principal pointed out, there were already seven other programs serving the particular group, and he'd rather have had the money for something else. He accepted the project after Youthwork sent technical assistants to write the proposal. The principal then assigned a teacher to coordinate the project, but didn't tell her until after the school year began.

The local business community was not involved in writing the proposal, nor was it consulted about possible placements. The proposal had called for placing students as aides in local schools and in the building trades. Principals and local union leaders, when interviewed, expressed surprise that the project existed. Most of the employers in the area were Anglo, and while, perhaps not opposed to hiring Mexican-American students, were not committed to the idea.

Parents, who at other sites were major supporters of the Youthwork programs, often were understandably indifferent, at best. For many of them, migration was a valued way of life and the project sought to under mine it. It came as a surprise to many staff members that some parents actually let their children participate in the project.

It is little wonder that site E was the lowest delivery site. As the program officer at Youthwork stated it promised little and delivered nothing."

3. Expansion and Contraction

Youthwork projects were not designed as on-going institutional support. Rather, they were designed to bring about change; in particular, they were to involve more organizations in the provision of youth-related services. While the aim was to expand the number of persons involved in serving youth, the unintended effect in some cases was contraction.

a. Site B: "Salutary Expansion

Site B, located in a rural community in New England, was originally established by a private foundation devoted to rural land conservation. Before Youthwork, youth who wanted to learn carpentry, forestry or other outdoor skills could work at the site, but were not paid. The staff was small, and, in the words of one member: "this was a very personal tight group of people here. It is a close-knit group, a small group, a group for the most part who lives right around here." She added, "There are a lot of problems with this."

As a result of the Youthwork contract, the project had to award academic credit, which required official contact with schools, and to pay eligible students. It took quite a bit of effort to get the necessary cooperation.

The director met repeatedly with school officials to solicit their cooperation. At one meeting, a counselor stood up and flatly refused to cooperate. "Co-op is co-op! Work study is all the project is qualified for. I'm not going to talk about it [credit] until I'm forced to ... It's just another CETA problem."

Over time, most schools cooperated. As the Youthwork project officer stated, the director laboriously negotiated for students, credit by credit, school by school. In doing so, the project seemed to gain the respect of the schools. One early opponent of the project, a counselor at a private school, stated he was amazed at the quality of the staff. He didn't know where "they got so many brilliant people."

In order to get the credit, the project had to tighten up procedures. Curricula had to be somewhat standardized, and evaluation methodologies established. As one staff member summed it up, the effects were mixed:

There's just not the spirit there used to be ... Although the kids feel it's a better run program. It isn't as personal, but maybe that's the way it should be...a little more structure, more business like in order to get the requirements done.

b. Project F: "Disaster"

Project F was a quasi-public alternative street school that served exoffenders, drug addicts, school dropouts and other highly at-risk youths between the ages of 18 and 25. As a matter of policy, the school took In anyone who asked, but all had to promise to quit drugs, participate in counseling sessions, have excellent attendance, and stay out of trouble with the law.

Over the ten years of the project, the director cultivated strong ties with members of the school board, police, local businesses, and social service agencies. As a result, the project was left pretty much on its own, free to choose its own public school teachers and even the principal.

Because it was assured funding, the project submitted a proposal to Youthwork in the area of "Youth Operated Projects." Among other things, they promised to run newspaper raising revenue by selling advertisements to local businessmen; establish a maintenance service; tutor students in local schools; and provide drivers for the elderly.

Each of these projects required cooperation from new people. None was forthcoming. The school district closed the neighborhood school in the afternoons. The park service refused to let the youths work because it was afraid the youth would interfere with their subgoals of order and safety. The city said that youths could not drive for profit and, there fore, could not run the transportation service for the elderly. The city was afraid of being sued. The newspaper got started, but the city school system cut back on the funds for the print shop, so only one issue got printed.

The publicity generated by the winning of the grant had serious repercussions. The School Board decided that the federal funds would be used to offset local funds (the legality of this is questionable). The Board also decided that the school no longer qualified under special education rules. The Board, interested in its own subgoal of reduced cost, sharply cut the number of teachers it would support at the school. Some of the teachers most closely related to the project were "excessed" or moved to other schools.

The frustrations experienced by the staff were enormous. Not only could they not fulfill the contract, but their energies were diverted from what they did best. To give time for the students to work on their jobs, the counseling sessions were dropped. Because they needed to keep students in the program to justify the grant, standards were lowered for retaining students. Near the end of the year, staff were repeatedly making comments like "we have to get back to our old ways of doing things."

The host organization was not able to develop a new or expanded community to help it fulfill its new obligations. Equally important, the Youthwork project accelerated--if it did not cause--a breakdown in the original community. The ethnographer wrote, "In general, the exemplary project seems to have accelerated conflicts between staff members. Both parties [school employees and employees of the community- based agency] feel the agency would be better run without the project, or at least a greatly reduced one.' The ethnographer may have been reflecting the view of a staff member who stated, "The exemplary program was a disaster, except that it provided staff salaries."

4. Community, Subgoals and Slippage

Like scarcity, the existence of a community of interests has direct effects on the delivery of services. This is true whether the community preexisted the project or was created by project staff through the allocation of their time, effort, energy and skills. From the viewpoint of this study, however, the important effects of community are through individually held subgoals.

As Simon suggests, when there are no objective criteria by which goals, or the means to achieve them, can be compared, then subgoals become important factors influencing individual behavior. These subgoals are not derived from immutable principles, but more often from the specific situation in which staff members find themselves. In this sense, community influences subgoals, and consequently delivery, in interconnected ways: as a source of reinforcement for professional subgoals and as a source of personal reward.

a. Source and reinforcement

As studies cited in Chapter II indicate, teachers look to their communities as sources of values and for reinforcement of their own values. Where a community is pre-disposed to value particular activities--paid job experiences for youth, for example--it is likely that persons working in the community will come to value that experience. Where persons are praised for accomplishing a particular subgoal, it is likely that they will devote effort to its further enhancement. This was clearly the case at Site H where employers told teachers--who told counselors--who told parents--that a disciplined work experience was good.

Where a community has divergent subgoals, the staff of a project does not have this consistent professional reinforcement. At Site C, staff were clearly torn between fulfilling the requirements of the contract and meeting the standards and values of both the migrant community and fellow faculty members. With no community support, the staff quickly lost interest in the project. As a result, less than optimal effort was devoted to fulfilling the requirements of the contract.

Staff at a very high-delivery site faced a potentially similar conflict. Also a rural community, the project served mostly Hispanic youngsters whose families were farm workers, although not necessarily migrants.

One of the project's subgoals was to raise students' aspirations, a sub goal shared by the staff. The staff were equally, if not more sensitive, to local values. As one staff member commented, "I never know if I'm pushing too hard about college. It's like going against a family tradition." This project had been developed by staff of a community agency and four alternative public schools, most of whom had worked together before, and all of whom were strongly committed to an overall goal of giving students realistic work experiences. Translated, that meant insisting on performance, attendance, punctuality, and appropriate behavior. Duties were carefully and formally divided, with the schools providing basic skills instruction and the agency job placements. The staff looked to and found reinforcement from each other.

At Site E, the staff began to question whether the issue of academic credit was worth antagonizing community college faculty. As a staff member stated in response to a question about what she wanted for the program, "It's not up to us. We have to be pleasing so many persons." In the end, the staff chose to emphasize jobs and basic skills, and not academic credit or research. Partially as a result, it became a middle- slippage site.

One site not discussed in this section is interesting. It was a site that promised quality job experiences for the youths, almost all of whom were Black. Most of the employers in the Southern city in which the project operated were white, as were the staff of the project. There seemed to be a tacit understanding that the staff would not refer students to more high-level jobs. These seemed to be reserved for the high school "co-op" students. The teachers repeatedly stressed their concern that the students might not be ready for the jobs. As one staff member said after placing her first students: "They're not ready. This is going to create problems, and they're the cream of the crop."

Community, then, where there is a unified set of goals, can serve as a major reinforcer of professional subgoals. Where community is divided, such reinforcement is unlikely.

b. Personal reward

Dealing with youth, who by all accounts were difficult, hostile, and unfortunately often doomed to failure, is unquestionably frustrating. It is difficult to follow the advice of the director of Site E when he said:

"Don't let the few failures you have be disappointing because, good gosh, with these youngsters you're working with, if you have a 50 percent success, you're doing pretty good."

When it becomes difficult to experience success with clients, street- level bureaucrats often turn to colleagues for personal reinforcement. Staff at the projects who were teachers "on loan" from the schools consistently worked hard at gaining or keeping the respect of teachers in regular schools. One teacher at Site E stated: "I try extra hard to get along with the teachers. Yesterday, I volunteered to take a study hail. They were shocked. All I can do is gradually work my way in."

Where staff members felt respected by persons they considered significant in the community, they were more likely to devote energies to achieving professional subgoals. When they felt rejected--or rejected the community--staff were likely to devote less effort to achieving professional subgoals and more to personal subgoals. Protocols from high-slippage sites are replete with statements by staff rejecting fellow staff or community members. One staff member at site A, a very high- slippage site, put it this way: I don't care very much about the staff.

My primary focus, interest and concern is the student. I don't care if the staff get along with each other. I am concerned with taking care of my kids and have given up on the rest of it." At another high-slippage site, the director commented that half the teachers rejected the methods of the project, would not come to staff meetings, and did not show up at student functions. At both these sites, the staff seemed to feel little reward or support from either the smaller community of the project, or from the larger community within which the project operated.

5. Discussion

This section explored the importance of "community" as it affects the subgoals of street-level bureaucrats in a social service program and how subgoals, in turn, influence service outputs. Community is not necessarily a neighborhood or other area, although they may be involved, nor is it limited to a single community, such as a business community. Essentially, community is a community of interest that, at its best, includes all necessary, related "communities."

Community interests, standards, concerns and values seem to have a strong effect, not only in helping shape, but in helping staff prioritize their subgoals. Community approval, Indifference or rejection can be important sanctions to which staff members appear to be highly sensitive. Community approval may lead to a strengthening of a subgoal and thereby raise its level on the individual's list of professional priorities. Indifference or negation can have a comparable, but negative, effect. In turn, the individual tends to allocate such resources as time, energy and skills toward those subgoals that carry highest community approval.

In cases where the project and the community stand apart, whether from indifference by one or the other or from hostility, the staffs seem to have faced one of two difficulties. If the problem was community indifference; staff members faced the difficulty of preceding without community support for either their subgoals or for the activities and pursuits of the project. In some cases, this meant having to spend time and effort trying to elicit community cooperation--time and effort that might otherwise have been spent providing services to youths. In other cases, it meant that the staff member's personal subgoals suffered, for part of the reward many individuals receive from their work is a sense that it is somehow important. Community approval can reinforce that feeling; Indifference can blunt it.

Where the project and the community stand, not only apart, but at odds, the problems for staff members are magnified. Necessary resources may be withheld. Road blocks may be set up at every juncture.

In either negative situation, staff subgoals may be seriously weakened and their prioritizing may become a continuous and confused process. Decision-making processes can become impaired and activities disjointed. As subgoals become weaken and vacillate, efficiency lessens and output is reduced.

From the perspective of public policy, perhaps the most important related questions involve whether a proposed project will have a strong, pre-existing, base of community support and, if so, will that base be sufficient or will it need to be expanded, or will the project have to build such a community from the bottom up. These are questions that will be considered again in the following chapter.

When you're up to your knees in alligators, it's hard to remember the bridge you came to build.

-An Old Adage

The biggest hindrance to the program is the ... lack of an individual's dream.

-Staff Member
 Site B

We're 90% on our own ... it's participatory. I like it that way. We had a lot of responsibility, a lot of freedom.

-Staff Member
 Site B

1. What do you want us to do, anyway?

Of the factors that appear to influence the individual subgoals of street-level bureaucrats--and through them the individual behaviors and ultimately the policy outputs at local sites--the element of focus seems to be particularly important. Moreover, it may be exceptionally susceptible to beneficial policy-making intervention.

In a broad sense, focus refers to the clarity with which an object is seen. The issues Involved, however, are complex. As discussed In Chapter II, federal policies rarely have one, easily Identifiable goal or objective. The multiple, ambitious, and broad goals of the Youth Employment Demonstration Projects Act which led to Youthwork are a case in point. Not infrequently, sudden and unanticipated shifts in policy and program focus occur, often leaving local implementers confused as to what is expected of them. This was clearly the case with several Youthwork projects. Moreover, as with most loosely coupled social service systems, the Youthwork project was but one source of focus for the staff. As Weick stated in discussing loosely coupled systems, this "multiplicity of intending actors" -- many people in authority wanting something else -- leaves the street level bureaucrat without effective guidance in what to do. Where too much is attempted, often little is accomplished.

Faced with ambiguity, many legislators, administrators and staff members often attempt to narrow goals and procedures to such an extent that rigidity sets in. The world of social service clients is often too complex and unpredictable to allow for a narrow interpretation of goals. Several Youthwork projects took this route, with less than adequate results.

2. Five Cases on Focus

The problems associated with focus -- or, more accurately, the lack of focus or too rigid a focus --- were evident at every site, often appearing in many forms. The ways by which projects dealt with the problems, how ever, varied considerably, often with important differences in consequences. Five projects were selected to illustrate different dimensions and aspects of the problems, or to show different ways of handling the same aspect. Each of the sites will probably be more or less familiar by now; nevertheless, viewing them from the perspective of focus may add further insights into the behavior of street-level bureaucrats and the role of individually held subgoals in determining outputs, hopefully without too much redundancy.

a. Site C: "The white man's burden"

To read Project C's application is to envision a well balanced, tightly structured program based on an organization with a strong, successful, track record of handling related projects. It proposed to emphasize high quality training, ensured job placement in semi-professional jobs, and credit for work experience in academic subjects. Overall, the project aimed at raising the academic and vocational aims of the Hispanic migrant youth the project was to serve, partially by reducing sex-role stereotyping.

In fact, however, the project as implemented suffered from a myopic view of the world of migrant youth. The staff, not overly enthusiastic about a project developed by Youthwork, frequently stated that the only purpose of the project was to "break the migrant stream." In their view, if youth were assured jobs they would not go with their parents on the annual trek north. This, in turn, would reduce, if not eliminate, Hispanic unemployment and related problems. Many of the staff were surprised and dismayed that some parents opposed their children joining the program for this very reason. As the staff director stated, "if parents can not adjust to staying in the area, the least they could do is to sacrifice their hold on their cultural belief of the family."

Equally narrow was the concept of what it took to run a work related program. The administrators and staff of the project seem to have believed that they were an entity unto themselves. The superintendent stated that, "Other than meeting with two project supervisors during the formative stage of the project, I have not seen or heard any matter relating to the program." The CETA oversight person said she knew virtually nothing about the project. More important, perhaps, the parents knew nothing about the project. The ethnographer concluded:

(1) The majority of the parents were not informed as to who could participate in the program. (2) All had little or no communication with the school. (3) None belonged to any school organization or group. (4) All, with the exception of one parent, said the students liked the program. (5) None knew the objectives of the program.

The project staff seemed to have a very narrow view of what it took to get youths jobs: provide them training. The staff apparently made no efforts to meet with potential employers, or to train the students in how to find out about and apply for jobs. This may have reflected the fact that the staff was drawn entirely from the public schools; no advisory board with outside representatives was appointed, and no oversight from CETA or Youthwork took place.

Site C suffered from a related narrowness of understanding--that of Youthwork. As indicated in a previous section, Youthwork sent someone to serve as a technical assistant to the school district to help in the writing of the proposal. In fact, the representative wrote most of the project. It seems, in this case at least, that Youthwork viewed the implementation process as a rather simplistic translation of a well-written proposal.

The narrowness of the conception--a kind of modern version of the "white man's burden"--and the narrowness of implementation was clearly too limited to lead to much output.

b. Site G: "Chicken is not Hamburger"

Project G, hosted by a county school system, was an offshoot of several years of continued and concentrated district-wide efforts to develop a model Competency-Based Career Education (CBCE) program. At face value, the proposal was a natural for Youthwork. An experienced organization, with some community ties, was offering to implement a well-tested education-work program. A limited focus, however, was apparent from the beginning. 

The proposal offered to provide high-grade career education credit in the academic areas, and first rate research on the relationship between career education success and academic credit. Secondary emphasis was placed on providing paid work experience and expanding private sector involvement. The total value assigned for project sub goals was the lowest of all ten sites. As one reviewer of the proposal wrote, "This is a well written proposal that will be implemented by competent people. I just wonder if we wouldn't get the same thing without Youthwork contribution."

As Implemented, the focal point of the project was a series of career guidance packages the staff had already developed--a series they planned to expand with Youthwork money. Each package centered around a different work site (a MacDonald's for example), and came complete with a list of different types and amounts of academic credit a student could earn for working at the site, a detailed job description, and sets of learning objectives. All learning was broken down into small modules-- "sentence structure," "cake decorating," "resume writing," and "division," for example. Everything was cross-indexed and cross-referenced, so a student needing "paragraph development" could consult the "Index" and find a job that offered the credit.

Enormous amounts of time, energy, and skills were devoted by both students and staff to these packets. It is not within the scope of this paper to evaluate competency based education or the use of individual learning packets. It does seem clear, however, that the narrowness of the packages led to increasing rigidity on the part of staff and to an overall limitation on outputs. The following situation is Illustrative.

A student, needing a particular type of academic credit, selected a career education packet approved for a MacDonald type store, which included, among other objectives, learning how to fry hamburgers. (All packets went through an elaborate process before being approved.) The staff, however, unable to find a hamburger type restaurant, placed the student at a chicken stand.
Then the problem arose. The chicken stand provided an opportunity for the student to learn "dealing with customers" and "addition." But chicken is simply not hamburger. Several staff meetings were devoted to the dilemma. Finally, a new packet was written and the student given permission to use it as a "test" packet.

While the chicken-hamburger controversy might seem trivial, except for its impact on staff time, a second aspect of the narrowness of focus at Site G was more telling. In pursuing their narrow conception of career education, the staff showed a marked tendency to overlook the broader needs of students. One illustration will illuminate this problem.

The student packets emphasized that it was absolutely necessary for students to arrive at work every day, on time, and, if ill, to call their work counselor and employer. Attendance and punctuality seemed to be the major criteria for evaluating students.

One day, a project student was arrested in school with a bag of marijuana. That afternoon, the work-site counselor bragged about the student, saying he had called in to let her know he would not be at work, and that he had already notified his employer.

The student was calling from jail!

This narrowness of purpose was reflected in the types of jobs staff got students. Nearly all were of the most menial sort, with few having any career potential. As one teacher said, "With these students, what can you expect."

Throughout the protocols on this site are statements by staff such as: "but the rules say we have to do it, "it's in the contract," "I'd like to do something else, but its not allowed," and "when visiting job sites the rule is to be seen and not heard."

The teachers performed their tasks as they saw them. The jailed student knew the rules. What the students in general did not seem to get out of the project was any larger vision of what they were or could be about.

c. Site A: "A house divided"

At the other end of the scale from narrowness is extreme breadth of focus and its consequences--confusion, dissipation of energy and effort, and, at its worst, total loss of focus. Such was the case at Project A.

The project was based at a private alternative high school in a medium-sized Northern city. As the director stated, "The federal government likes this city, because it is big enough to have all the problems of large cities, but small enough so that they seem manageable."

The director of the project was single-mindedly devoted to the school. In his words, "I'm wedded to the project. I thrive on this kind of commitment." A master grantsman, he had kept the school alive by successfully competing for grants from a wide variety of sources. The school had for several years maintained a reputation for successfully dealing with dropouts, criminals, and low achievers. The director's success in getting grants from disparate sources, however, contributed in part to the undoing of the school by making it go in several directions at once.

What he proposed to do for Youthwork alone is staggering. The project would place primary emphasis on (1) high quality work experience, (2) basic academic skills, (3) attitude training, (4) personal counseling, (5) career guidance, (6) raising students' aspirations, and (7) helping youths with their personal problems. In addition, secondary emphasis would be on: (8) expanding private sector involvement, (9) giving academic credit for work experience, (10) high academic standards and (11) research. This was far more than any other project promised.

Predictably, the staff could not keep all these focal points in sight. Moreover, they were not willing to devote 90 hours a week to achieving them. Over the course of the year, they seemed to devote less and less effort to job placement, academic standards, or research. Instead, they seemed to focus on their own personal relations with students. Several staff members made statements to the effect that they understood the students better than their colleagues. Teachers refused to participate in staff meetings, calling them a "bore." Teachers and other staff openly subverted the rules of the director for granting credit for graduation.

The director, himself, was spending increasing amounts of time negotiating with Youthwork about why they were not fulfilling the requirements of the contract. He stated at one point that he could not understand Youthwork's insistence on making sure kids got jobs and that reports were timely. The best grantor agencies "just give the money and let us do with it as we need." In fact, there is evidence that Youthwork, itself, more or less gave up on making the school do anything.

The "snapshot" of quotes site A on the following page give a good indication of how divided the project was in terms of goals, methods, procedures and standards. It is not surprising that under these conditions, teachers used their own individual standards to determine behavior. One example, mentioned in another section, is illuminating. The ethnographer described a visit to an employer with a staff member. The ethnographer interviewing the student discovered that he did not have working papers and was engaged in removing labels from television tubes and re placing them with different labels.

Snapshots at Site A

... I think the staff should expect excellence from the students, but some don't.


... I try to teach them math through the use of tools and constructing things...but some kids just can't handle numbers so, after a while, I just don't push anymore.

-Staff Member

... The school should be tougher than the public schools. It has to stand on its principles and standards.


... This teacher is almost like a student in her behavior. She is constantly laughing with the students and seems to lack control.


... In the first place, this is primarily a school, and that shouldn't be secondary to a salary

-Direct or

... The only thing I'm concerned about is getting the kid a job.

-Job Developer

... [Employers] tend to cover for the kids, especially lateness. The [are supposed to fill out an evaluation on the kids every week. But it's a check off one and usually they just check off satisfactory. This is a problem, especially when the next week the kid is fired.

-Teacher B

... There seems to be little or no control over course content...I get no sense of quality control or standards of performance among the teachers. I sense that everyone on a gut level just believes that no matter what they do it is better than the public schools.


... I could have used that $30,000 they required me to take out of the budget for knowledge development and used it for something worthwhile.


... What was at Issue were varying standards and values about what the [project] was about.


Before leaving, the staff member spent considerable time talking to the employer, explaining that the ethnographer was "okay" and that nothing would be said to anyone. The staff member later explained to the ethnographer that it was difficult to get sites, and he didn't want to lose this one.

If this disregard for general rules was a unique example at site C, it could be dismissed as the result of an individual's lack of morality. However, Site C seemed to have an overabundance of persons who were single- mindedly devoted to ignoring rules from above. Another teacher complained that the director had a "fetish": he made them come to school on time. Another refused to talk to the director for months, because he reprimanded her for allowing a student to graduate even though he was several credits short for graduation. The teacher said, "Yes, I suppose I broke the rules, but I don't know; the kid seemed to need to graduate."

d. Site B: "Trees, kids and research can mix"

Project B was located on a many-thousand-acre area of land in New England, owned by a private foundation dedicated to conserving the property. For many years before Youthwork, the host organization had employed a small staff who tended the land and trees and who, secondarily,worked with student volunteers from the local school district. The students occasionally received shop or vocational education credit for their work, but were not paid. They were chosen on the basis of interest and/or skills in conservation.

As a result of the Youthwork award, several changes occurred in the operation of the project. Because youths were to be paid with federal funds, strict income eligibility requirements had to be met. The project was also required to arrange for academic credit for youth and to develop a model of how work experience could be related to school.

Several staff members commented on a number of fundamental dilemmas created by the award. The efficient management of land and resources did not seem to mix well with the use of untrained youths as workers. As one staff member pointed out, "I could caulk all the windows in the time it takes me to teach one kid how to do it." The requirement to take only income eligible youth meant that the project had to reject many of the students who were best qualified. The subgoal of developing replicable work-education models meant that resources had to be devoted to curriculum development and documentation. The staff, however, were hired primarily on their ability to work with tools, not necessarily with youth. The more effort devoted to formal educational aspects, the less effort they had for things they knew best.

A number of factors kept these subgoals from becoming mutually exclusive, although they never became completely mutually reinforcing. The project staff remained united that conservation of land was the primary purpose of the project. They came rather rapidly however to the attitude that other subgoals could be instrumental to this end. The more students they had, after all, the more work that could get done. The staff also realized that the higher the standards they set for work, the more the overall goal was reached. A new staff member commented:

The project seems to have two goals: to manage the resources in an economical, ecological way and to run this Youthworker experience thing ... I think that the "Youthworker" program seems to be a way of achieving the first goal; a way of getting people to learn about the land, but to make the land productive.

No one in the project, or in the schools for that matter, ever came to view academic credit as a goal. At one meeting of school representatives, some of whom were bitterly protesting the idea, the director pointed out that "awarding such credit was a condition of the grant and we all want the kids to have this opportunity." All but one school finally agreed to cooperate.

Similarly, the staff more or less complied with paperwork requirements, although again, no one expressed any sympathy for the subgoal of knowledge development. They were helped in this in that relatively little emphasis had been placed on research by the project.

In brief, they were able to make possibly divergent foci compatible. It might be noted that no site studied delivered higher quality work sites than Project B, and, at the same time, delivered far more by way of attitude and job skills training than the project required.

e. Site D: "The rest of the kids were watching"

Whether the proposal, site evaluations, or the Cornell protocols are read, one subgoal emerges clearly from site D: attitude development. A paragraph from the proposal is illustrative:

The key and distinctive feature of the work experience jobs is that the behaviors which are required will be patterned directly after the expectations of private employers. Procedures with respect to termination will also be patterned after conditions of work in the private sector. We expect that numerous students will not be ready to follow these standards and will be terminated [original emphasis].

The proposal was written by a group of principals of alternative high schools together with a community-based organization with ties to local businesses. The proposal clearly divided the services that would be offered by each group. School personnel were responsible for basic skills; the community organization arranged for jobs and job-site supervision.

All staff seemed to hold to the overriding goal of maintaining standards similar to the workplace. Illustrative quotes include, "Each student has to obey the rules in the contract in order to remain in the program"; "I always harp on making sure students do meaningful work, not just picking up paper"; '.1 look for a place that provides good supervision. I transfer kids if they're not being supervised adequately. The main goal is to teach kids good work habits"; "Most of the private employers I talk to are not really interested in a new employee's skills. What they want to know is whether the employee is dependable"; and "the key to our success is high structure."

A specific illustration may make the point. One of the key community agency people explained why she finally dismissed a student

I hated to do it. She wasn't coming to work ... The other students were watching to see what I would do about her. I couldn't let her get away with being absent.

As these quotations and illustrations suggest, the staff from the beginning saw the project as having a unified goal. With one exception, every other subgoal was chosen and seen to reinforce the others to achieve this goal. High quality work sites were necessary to ensure that students learned appropriate behavior; academic standards were necessary because students had to know certain basic skills to perform up to the standards on the job; and supplementary services, such as referral to social service agencies were necessary to ensure that students had adequate clothes to attend work in proper attire. 

Because the staff did not see job skills or sex role de-stereotyping, for example, as integrally related to the overall goal, these were not emphasized in either the proposal or on the site. This is the only site that did not experience considerable tension in allocating resources between research and service. The explanation is somewhat simple. The promised research centered around academic credit, as it did at other sites. However, since the schools, employers, and community agency staff seemed so universally committed to the same standards, and because they had success fully divided up the turf, the awarding of academic credit never seemed to be a problem. The school simply accepted the fact that the work experience was helping the school achieve its goal. As one principal stated:

The program offers an incentive to attend school and stay involved. Pay for school. You could look at it that way. But the high schools haven't been successful in keeping them in school, so why not.

It perhaps goes without saying that this was one of the highest level delivery sites.

3. Individual Subgoals, Focus and Outputs
It is clear that a wide variety of factors inhibit, facilitate or support output. It is equally and undeniably clear that, in any immediate sense, whatever services are delivered are, in fact, the direct result of the behaviors of street-level bureaucrats. These behaviors, it is suggested, are strongly influenced by their individual subgoals. One of the central problems in this chapter is that of identifying some of the ways by which various factors influence the subgoals of staff members and how those subgoals, in turn, affect service outputs.

Nowhere, perhaps, is the situation so clearly drawn as with the question of focus, for focus is ultimately an individual matter. Other factors have direct influence on outputs. Where students are scarce, a case at Site B, individual staff members may not be able to provide services to as many students as they would like; where quality jobs are scarce, project staff simply cannot easily find students such jobs, no matter what the staff's professional subgoals, as was the case at Site G. Focus, on the other hand, seems to operate solely on and through individual subgoals. Thus, the central question here is how this occurs.

Three general mechanisms seem to be involved, although there are undoubtedly many others. They are reinforcement, dissipation, and con- concentration.

a. Reinforcement

As Simon suggests, subgoals are not derived from some ultimate principle or from some overall goal, no matter how noble. Subgoals, consequently, are not fixed or static, but rather change in different contexts. Some persons simply do not seek high satisfaction from their jobs; others enjoy writing dissertations. Organizational subgoals change as the individual changes organizations and as the nature of the organization shifts over time. Professional subgoals may be strongly influenced by training, experience and education, and, if these remain constant, subgoals may not change. But the form and intensity of any given subgoal certainly varies. As one administrator In Site J said, "I just don't care as much about reading instruction as I did when I was a teacher."

When situations change, when there are new clients to serve, or when employment conditions vary, street-level bureaucrats must reassess their subgoals. Street-level bureaucrats cannot rely on strong causal theories to relate their actions and desired goals. Where then do they turn for what Sartre calls confirmation of beliefs. The community is often one primary source. A second is the project itself. It is here that focus has its influence.

At all low-slippage sites, the projects were clearly focused. Services promised tended to be somewhat limited and mutually reinforcing. Although there was a far-from-perfect match, the professional subgoals of the staff were similar to the proposal's subgoals. Moreover, there seemed little disagreement among the staff at the three low-slippage sites about what the projects were about, what their main goals were, what requirements could be ignored in a pinch. Although it is not systematically recorded in this study, it seems apparent that, over time, the staff at these projects grew more committed to a limited set of professional subgoals. At Site B, the new teachers grew increasingly interested in the quality of work-site supervision; in Site D, teachers seemed more eager to work with employers at the end than at the beginning.

The focus at each of these sites was broad enough, however, to allow staff members to adapt to the projects in their own way. At none of the three low-slippage sites were staff members required to spend most of their time doing things that, while necessary for the project, were inconsistent with their own goals.

The effects of focus as a reinforcer can perhaps best be seen in the case where the consequences were negative. The very narrow focus In Site G led the staff to emphasize certain rules and procedures, to the detriment of students. As one new teacher said after a few weeks on the project, "Had I known I would have had to do all these packets, I wouldn't have joined. I don't know if it is helping the kids, but it is part of the job."

b. Concentration

Where project subgoals were clear and sharp, individual staff members and administrators alike were able to concentrate their efforts and resources. Unlike staff members at sites E and J, for example, those at Project D never had to use scarce resources trying to line up employers and quality job sites and thus were free to concentrate resources on other priority services for students. The fact that Project B itself was the employer freed resources to secure academic credit. It is probably difficult to overestimate the beneficial effects that collectively concentrated and integrated efforts by staff had on productivity.

Clarity of focus not only served to reinforce individual professional subgoals, but, in various subtle ways, it may have worked on personal sub goals as well. When staff members could see clearly where the project was headed, how and why, and also felt support from the project for his or her professional subgoals, such individuals were able to focus their efforts with the result that output was enhanced.

At the same time, the enhanced output seems likely to have increased the individual's sense of personal subgoal fulfillment, of participating in personally rewarding activities, and of working with a project that was accomplishing the very things the individual wanted to accomplish. Morale is a term sometimes used.

The point is that this increased sense of personal reward, success and satisfaction may well have had the effect of increased the energy levels of the individuals involved and thereby both increasing the amount of available time--that is the time an individual was willing to devote to the project--and the amount the individual was able to accomplish during any given period of time.

Admittedly, this study found little direct and positive evidence to support this supposition, although there was ample negative evidence to make it seem reasonable. At Site F, for example, the project with perhaps the lowest over-all morale, there were repeated encounters with teachers and counselors who had simply thrown up their hands in confusion, sitting in class reading newspapers and doing little more than baby sitting. At Site A, where all sense of focus had been lost, there were numerous examples of staff members withdrawing to basic survival activities--teachers who seemed to care for nothing except their personal needs, job developers who would settle for getting youth any kinds of jobs, counselors coming in late and leaving early, and job hunting on company time.

c. Resource dissipation

Where clarity of focus existed, staff subgoals were reinforced' morale, energy and a sense of time increased; and productivity enhanced. By the same token, where focus was vague or included too many focal points, the reverse occurred. Instead of being able to concentrate resources, staff members frequently found themselves uncertain, sometimes chasing one way one day and another the next. One result was dissipation.

Uncertainty seems to undermine professional subgoals. In a project where subgoals are not clear, those subgoals do not provide the standards needed by the individuals in the process of reexamining and reevaluating professional subgoals. In turn, this seems to feed back and reinforce uncertainty.

Energy and time may be dissipated as individuals try, like Melville's Ahab, to "find something solid under me in this slippery world." Professional and organizational subgoals are questioned. Time is spent, not on project services, but on attempting to make sense of various subgoals. Much time may be spent on pursuing activities that may be negated by the following day's activities. The staff would have undoubtedly agreed with T. S. Eliot's Prufrock:

In a minute there is time
for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse

Productivity decreases. The individual's sense of accomplishment may diminish, along with the feeling of participating in personally rewarding activities. Enthusiasm is dissipated. Morale decreases and with it productivity. Other personal subgoals may become threatened, and, if there is one thing clear in this study, it is that, when personal sub goals are threatened, they start to dominate behavior, and when that happens, productivity is very likely to suffer.

5. Discussion

With focus, there seem to be two general causal chains involved. Where a project's focus is tight and clear, yet broad enough to permit both the project's and staff's subgoals, the project's subgoals may rein force individuals' subgoals, allowing concentration of resources, and thereby increasing productivity. At the same time, the increased productivity feeds back to further reinforce personal subgoals, as well as professional subgoals, thereby enhancing the individuals' sense of accomplishment, success and reward, and in turn, Increasing the amount of time and energy Individuals are willing to allocate to the project, which, in turn, can lead to greater productivity.

The second chain is negative, but seems to follow the same route. Vague, ambivalent, or too ambitious a focus lead to uncertainty, to a lack of reinforcement, to confusion, to wasted effort and time, and to decreased productivity. In turn, decreased productivity may Increase uncertainty, lower morale and even cause basic personal subgoals to be threatened, resulting in Individual's behavior that can be dysfunctional to the ends of the project, and even to the individuals.

Focus is certainly not the only factor involved, nor is it necessarily the most important. Nevertheless, focus does seem to exert a strong influence on individual subgoals and, through them, have some affect on outputs. Every project that was in the low-slippage group had a clear and unified focus. However, focus was obviously not enough for two middle-slippage sites had too clear a focus. What they lacked, in part, was a focus at once sharp enough to be seen and understood clearly by the staff and broad enough to accommodate staff subgoals and the wider needs of clients.


This chapter has dealt with three concepts--scarcity, community and focus--and the ways by which individually held subgoals respond to them, singularly and collectively, in providing the outputs of a project. One object was to try to identify and explore some of the causal chains and feedback loops between forces that are external to the individual staff member, the individual's subgoals, and service outputs. The second goal or subgoal, in the language of this study, was to focus clear attention on areas that seem to have particularly important relevance for public policy.

Scarcity was found to have four major effects on individual sub goals. One is that it sets limits on which subgoals can be accomplished and at what levels. For example, staff members in the projects considered here seemed generally to have all wanted to accomplish much more than the time available to them permitted. In turn, this forced staff to prioritize subgoals and to make choices about allocating their resources. Conflicts developed. Some were creative; others were dysfunctional.

Community, in the sense of a pre-existing community of interests, as well as in its more common sense of referring to one's neighbors, was seen to be a powerful influence on individually held subgoals. Community was a source of subgoals and a source of affirmation or rejection of sub goals. Community cooperation and support could reduce scarcity; indifference or rejection could increase it and impede progress by making it necessary for staff members to expend scarce resources on instrumental means, rather than directly in providing services. Finally, community was a source of rewards and sanctions, capable of validating or denying individual actions, subgoals and personal worth.

Focus was found to be able to clarify or confuse individual subgoals. Where clarity of focus existed and project priorities were seen clearly, individuals were able to sharpen their own subgoal priorities and channel their personal resources in ways that enhanced output. Multiple foci or uncertain focal points often were confusing, leading to conflicts and dissipation of efforts and achievements.

Individual subgoals seem to have operated in a variety of ways in responding to these factors. One is that subgoals seem to have acted as mediators between contending value claims. Is one service more important than another? Is the community correct or is the project right? Subgoals also seem to act as a mechanism for compromise and adjustment. What is the most reasonable set of subgoal services upon which to target resources? What are the best ways of accomplishing the most, for serving the largest numbers of youths, and for providing them with the greatest amount of those things that they need most?

Finally, there seem to have been a series of complex causal chains and feedback loops linking project services and project priorities; re source availability and scarcity; community interests, sanctions and re wards; individually held staff subgoals; and project outputs. These will not be summarized here.

In the following chapter, some of the implications of these tentative findings will be discussed as they relate to both public policy and to future research of this type and in this field.

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