First Advisor

John O'Brien

Term of Graduation

Summer 1976

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Social work administration, Social exchange, Area Agency on Aging



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vi, 215 pages)


It is the purpose of this research to examine the interactions between organizations and the work of coordinating agencies in influencing those interactions using social exchange theory. A model was developed, incorporating elements of exchange theory, and the components of that model examined in the community. Techniques of change and the outcomes of activities of the coordinating agency were examined in an effort to develop a "case study" of a coordinating agency's activity in the community.

Historically, social services were provided in the community through informal, often familial, networks. With the urbanization of society, social services have become more formalized and specialized with a remarkable increase in the number of individual agencies. Movement from a "growth" to a scarcity economy and new federalism as well as concern with duplication, overlap, and gaps in services have led to an interest in the coordination of these activities.

The Area Agency on Aging, considered by many to be a forerunner to the Allied Services Act, was implemented in 1973 by the federal government for the purpose of coordinating services to the elderly in the community. The goal of the Area Agency is the development of a comprehensive coordinated community service system. The activities of six such coordinating agencies as well as the social service organizations in their areas were studied to determine the explanatory value of social exchange theory. Additionally, attitudes of service providers toward various tactics for community change as well as the perceived outcomes of coordinating agency activities were investigated.

The study of the Area Agency on Aging as a coordinating agency in the community was accomplished in two waves of data collection. The first, consisting of indepth interviews with 84 individuals in six areas, took place from May through July of 1975. The second wave involved indepth interviews and a mailed survey. Data were collected from 191 individuals in 126 agencies in three areas, urban, rural and urban/rural mixed. The data were coded and analyzed by computer to determine trends and relationships. The interview schedules were analyzed for specific cases. These objective and subjective data were used to "reconstruct" this study of interaction and coordination.

A model, Organizational Interaction Model, was derived utilizing social exchange theory. This model contains the elements of commodities: funding, information, access to influentials, clients, staff and technology; valuing criteria: integration, status, world view, autonomy, domain and power; and arenas of exchange: planning, contracts and letters of agreement, hearings and meetings, evaluation and monitoring, and client transfers. These elements were examined, and their explanatory value for activities in the community involving organizations and coordinating agencies was determined.

Change techniques, involving varying types as well as levels of intervention, were studied in terms of their perceived appropriateness by community organizations. The data suggested changes in activities of coordinating agencies, social planners, and makers of policy. Perceived outcomes of coordinating agency activity over the past three years show positive impacts in the community generally, though individual impacts vary.

Finally, the implications of these findings are discussed for coordinating agencies as well as local and federal policy makers, with suggestions for future research. Social exchange theory offers rich ground for the study of community service systems and the coordination of interactions within communities.


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