This paper contributes to the debate on the process and the efficacy of Western management 'knowledge' transfer by casting light on the ways in which it has had an impact on the largely neglected area of public service and public administration. The study from which the paper derives\ud took place in 1997 and 1998 in two social services departments in regions south of Moscow, and in the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (formerly Social Protection) in Moscow. The author is a British management academic acting as a consultant to the development of social work\ud management on a recent Tacis project. The paper is an ethnographic, participant observer account of working with Russian social workers, social work managers, and heads of service. In Russia, the institutions for protection of the most vulnerable groups in the population, and the\ud legislative frameworks for such institutions (the ‘social safety net’), are being radically re-drawn, in efforts to forestall the direst social consequences of a rapid shift to the market. Social work as a\ud profession is being shaped and defined within this context, and an infrastructure to manage and resource it is being gradually and painfully developed by its leaders, often in extremis. Social services\ud managers are struggling with a gargantuan task of reconciling the contradiction between vastly expanding public expectations and rapidly dwindling resources. Within this contradiction, Western influences, traditional Russian values and the harsh reality of the present, meet, collide and confront each other. Inherent tensions lead to the psychological phenomenon known as ‘splitting’ - the separating out of negative emotions or feelings judged unhelpful, and their projection onto other\ud groups. Using an ethnographic approach to a small number of recent consultancy episodes, the author contends that only those Western management approaches which can accommodate a diverse range of ideological positions will be helpful, because they will be recognised in terms of current\ud realities and comprehended as consistent with dominant values. No single set of values can yet be said to be dominant. The ensuing result is that a focus on developing practice in social work delivery is seen to be more relevant, and less problematical, than the transfer of new approaches to service management
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