In this article, the changing role of modern front-line professionals within the contemporary governance setting is explored. For this purpose, a thematical literature review was conducted. Several studies show that the character of professionalism has changed in relation to the changing governance setting, with its emphasis on the neighbourhood as a locus of addressing complex social issues.
The main conclusion are:
- Connective capacities – the ability to address often complex social issues and work together with others – are more important than expertise and specialisation.
- Front-line professionals apply ‘fixing strategies’ to bring together the objectives of government policies with the needs and concerns of the local community.
This changing role of front-line professionals is illustrated with the case of community sport coaches in the Netherlands.
On the basis of recent literature on governance and professionalism, a theoretical framework is introduced that brings together different governance models and corresponding forms of professionalism.
Empirical study of how front-line professionals use these fixing strategies, and the dilemmas they face in trying to bring the different agenda’s together, can give important insight into the policy process. The presented framework can guide such studies, by illuminating the ‘local governance setting’ in which front-line professionals operate. It also questions the traditional distinction between politics and policy, and between policy and implementation. This implies that front-line professionals can no longer be seen as mere ‘implementers’ of public policy and that their work is inherently ‘political’.