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Management Implications of Transitioning Between Leisure Service Providers: A Community Leisure Arts Program Case Study

Toni Liechty, M. Rebecca Genoe


Leisure services provided by different sectors

likely have different missions, goals, and policies, which can impact

management strategies and participants' experiences. In North America, leisure

services are becoming increasingly privatized (moving from the public to

private sector), which necessitates research into how a transition from public

to private will affect existing user groups. The subject of this case study

arose with the closure of a neighbourhood recreation center and the resulting

relocation of a municipal pottery program to an alternate location under the

administration of a nonprofit organization with a cost-recovery mandate.

The purpose of this study was to explore how the relocation of the program

and transition between providers impacted stakeholders. By doing so, this

study sought to highlight management implications of such a transition. We

interviewed students, instructors, and administrators prior to the transition and

approximately six to 10 months after the new program had begun. We digitally

recorded, transcribed, and analyzed data thematically. The findings highlighted 

challenges related to communication, expectations, and differing perceptions

of the definition of a community-based program. Prior to the transition, some 

participants were nervous about possible changes; however, some were hopeful

for new opportunities. The lack of information from the administration about

the transition fostered negative speculation among students and instructors.

After the transition, many participants expressed frustration with increased

prices, reduced services, and lack of opportunity to provide input. The most

dissatisfied students were generally those who had participated in the original 

program, because they had a source of comparison, greater investment in the

program, and an established view as to the purpose of the program. This study

highlights the challenges of transitioning between service providers (particularly

when governmental funding is eliminated), which may be considered in the

future as other community programs are privatized. The findings highlight the 

importance of direct communication and recognizing informal communication

that occurs among users and staff. Furthermore, they highlight the importance

of understanding and recognizing that expectations (whether accurate or

inaccurate) might be related to the sector and image of the organization. Leisure

service managers would benefit from recognizing the unique challenges of

transitioning an existing program as opposed to starting a new program. To do so

successfully, managers need to actively seek out the input of existing participants

and to communicate their intentions, limitations, and goals in order to increase



Community-based leisure arts; privatization; program management; qualitative research; sectors of service provision

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