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Service Consumption During Prolonged Conflict: Consumer Resilience, Routine & Rapport
Authors: Treasa Kearney (University of Liverpool, UK), Ahmed Al--Abdin (University of Liverpool, UK)
“When there is so much chaos and destruction or your local market burns to the ground, you feel obliged to help others […] it’s easy just to give up, fall back and crumble! […] when you’re faced with daily struggles and have to feed your family, it [struggling] becomes a way of life! People realise that the extraordinary is actually just ordinary and despite all the violence, we still stand united!” (Extract of data collection; Hiba, Iraq)
Mass protests, demonstrations and armed conflict in which is now known as the ‘Arab Spring’ revolution has swept across countries such as Iraq and Libya. These, disruptive events are occurrences which change over time (Giesler and Thompson’s 2016) and uncover rich service encounters within a complex service ecosystem (Blocker and Barrios, 2015). However, our understanding of a consumer’s service norms and practices during these times of social conflict has received little attention. This paper argues that institutions (i.e. the norms, rules, meanings, symbols and practices which connected actors share) and how service ecosystems evolve in social conflicts warrant attention. The aim of this paper is to examine the role of consumption practices during a period of disruptive social conflict.
By taking an institutional lens, we are able to delve deeper into the daily lives, consumption practices and activities of actors (Baron et al. 2018). We conducted 36 semi-structured interviews with respondents during disruptive periods in Iraq and Libya. We asked our respondents; how they go about their daily consumption practices? How do they react to any boundaries/conflicts? And who do they interact with? We embed our analysis within social conflict theory and relate to incumbents (i.e. governments or regimes who draw on formal institutions which compromise official rules or laws) and challengers (i.e. groups of consumers who integrate resources and co-create value in order to push back against the norms). Through this process, this paper contributes to better understanding of inter-relationships, those between consumers and communities, and intra-relationships, those between communities, within a service ecosystem. Through this process we establish several key theoretical contributions. Firstly, we establish that social conflict theory can better contribute to understanding a service ecosystem across disruptive events. We found that three important concepts can help mediate conflict; namely community Resilience, maintaining Routines and building Rapport. For example, we found that consumers focused on these concepts to help themselves cope with stress, build community defiance (and challenge the incumbents) and establish ordinary lives. Secondly, through exploring the daily activities of various actors, we gained a deeper understanding of how the ordinary is made extraordinary during periods of conflict. Through this process challengers opposed incumbents in order to bring about a normality and well-being to themselves and the community.