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Paradigman jäljillä: Tutkimus vesihuollon ajattelumalleista

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


Original languageFinnish
Place of PublicationTampere
PublisherTampere University of Technology
Number of pages111
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-15-3729-5
ISBN (Print)978-952-15-3716-5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2016
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Publication series

NameTampere University of Technology. Publication
ISSN (Print)1459-2045


The municipalities of Finland are facing interesting times; the public sector as a whole is struggling with economic and productivity challenges and is striving to find innovative development strategies for the future. The prevailing conditions are reflected in the built environment, in the technical sector of municipalities and, therefore, in infrastructure services such as water services. Generally speaking, water services are perceived to be static in nature that have operated successfully in the relatively unchanging conditions of history. However, the increasing complexity and faster rate of change in the operating environment are forcing water services to be more innovative and able to explore their own role as a part of variety of systems as well as to formulate problems accordingly. The way water services are thought and seen ultimately defines what kind of solutions are produced and services delivered. Thinking patterns related to water services shape its future.

These thinking patterns – the paradigms of water services – are in the spotlight in this doctoral dissertation. For this purpose, the conceptual framework of two alternative paradigms of water services is constructed. Paradigm 1 represents a production-oriented world view that rests on reductionist thinking, production-based value creation logic, and closed-context expertise. Paradigm 2 embodies a service-oriented world view that is based on holistic systems thinking, service-based value creation logic, and open-context expertise. Based on this conceptual framework, the four selected research articles are explored, following the principles of qualitative research. The purpose is to find and clarify the paradigm related clues of the articles, and hence approach the question: how are water services thought?

The theme of the first article relates to the relationships between water utilities and external service providers. It shows that the relationships are based on mistrust that must be managed by continuously tightening contracts. As a consequence of the dominant paradigm, there is no foothold left for building trust between parties. The second article highlights the identity of water services by asking what kind of meanings water utilities place on water services. Reflecting the findings in relation to the paradigms, it is seen that the aim of water services is perceived to be the realization of top-down imposed goals. This explains why sense-making with wider systemic meanings hardly occurs. The theme of the third article relates to the idea of inverse infrastructure, which refers to user[IV] driven developed infrastructures that have the characteristics of self-organization and volunteerism. These kinds of alternative infrastructure solutions shift the power of decision away from formal systems, hence this tendency is not necessarily favoured in the municipal infrastructure policy. In the light of paradigm exploration, municipal infrastructure policy should be enabling and integrative. The theme of the fourth article, in turn, deals with social norms. It is argued that following social norms over sectoral boundaries has an effect on trust and acceptance towards the water services.

Regarding all four articles, this study revealed that, along with material and quantitative dimensions, there resides invisible system dimensions affecting the service that is ultimately provided. If water services are perceived by a production-oriented paradigm, these less obvious system dimensions are ignored or formulated in an inappropriate manner. A service-oriented paradigm is, in turn, more responsive to different system dimensions; it also emphasizes that the less obvious phenomena can have an influence on the service as a whole. From the research that has been carried out, it can be concluded that if the purpose of water services is to create well-being for the wider society, then there seems to be a need for a paradigm shift that puts more consideration on the changing and ever more complex operating environment. In that case, the ways water services are thought and understood have to change towards a world view outlined by the serviceoriented paradigm. It helps to rediscover the linkage between the water services and societal development.

Field of science, Statistics Finland

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