The objective of this article is, on the one hand, to analyse the major quality certification procedures used in France by the different local players and to examine if these procedures are innovative in terms of quality signal and guarantee for the users as well as in improving employment quality inside the organisation. On the other hand, this article will discuss the specificity of nonprofit organisations in this field. Nonprofit organisations, who played, historically, a pioneering role in the provision of social services, have now to deal with an increasingly competitive environment. They adopt quality certification procedures borrowed from private enterprises, sometimes with the help of umbrella organisations, professional unions and federations. Does the adoption of such certification procedure constitute an innovative process or does it reveal an isomorphism process that will rob the originality of nonprofit organisations?
Building upon case studies in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region, this article will be structured as follows. The first part will briefly present the characteristics of home care services, the major issues raised in terms of service quality and the main regulation procedures used in this sector in France, public and private ones to regulate quality. The second part will discuss the strategies adopted by nonprofit organisations to signal their quality, in the context of growing competition. Are these strategies innovative for the sector or do they reveal an isomorphism process? The adoption of quality certification procedures borrowed from the private sector questions the different proximity dimensions of these services (Pecqueur & Zimmerman, 2004): the institutional one, in the sense that it redefines the ways general interest objectives are met; the organisational one, since it reinforces managerial and performance processes; and the geographical one, by limiting the importance of the territorial dimension and the participation of the users in the service provision.
In conclusion, we will briefly link these recent developments in France together with the ongoing trends in Europe concerning the provision of social services of general interest.