Research Briefing, April 2018

blogimage_researchbriefingEach month, there is new, fascinating research emerging that provides practical insight into how the government, business, and non-profit sectors partner to address society’s most pressing problems. To keep our readers up to date on this work, which comes from a variety of academic and non-academic sources, we compile a monthly briefing and publish it on our blog — for researchers who want to stay up to date on progress in the field of cross-sector collaboration and practitioners who are interested in how this research may be applicable to their work.

This month’s briefing includes articles about:

  • the public-private food assistance system that emerged in the 1970s,
  • the role of open strategy in absorptive capacity in cross-sector partnerships,
  • how and to what extent NGOs contribute to inclusive business ventures,
  • the definitions and determinants of success in cross-sector partnerships, and
  • the Social Innovation Financing Youth Recidivism Project in Massachusetts.

Beyond the Shadow State: The Public–Private Food Assistance System as Networked Governance, Urban Affairs Review, Amy Rosenthal and Kathe Newman

Abstract: “The public–private food assistance system (PPFAS) emerged during the 1970s to address ‘emergency’ food needs and has since grown into a regularized social welfare system of grocery and meal provision and related program delivery, realized through the collective efforts of organizations and individuals. We explore the context, history, and organization of the PPFAS to better understand how and why public and private actors work together to provide for the social welfare of poor people. We find that the PPFAS is organized as a multi-actor, multi-scalar network within which the relations between state, market, and civil society are continuously negotiated. The PPFAS may seem like the quintessential example of privatized governance with its attendant movement of decision making outside of the public sphere Rather than consider the PPFAS as a neoliberal fait accompli, we view the PPFAS as a site of contestation about how social welfare and, more broadly, democratic governance is organized.”

Collaborating Smartly: The Role of Open Strategy in Absorptive Capacity,” Journal of Small Business Management, Thomas G. Pittz, Melissa L. Intindola, Terry Adler, Sean Rogers, and Charlotte Gard

Abstract: “Research on open strategy suggests that shared knowledge through collaboration can generate co‐created value. We explore this idea by assessing it as a predictor of absorptive capacity (ACAP) in cross‐sector partnerships in pursuit of social innovation. The findings of our study indicate that aspects of strategic openness, including a shared sense of interdependence toward a mutual goal, are the primary mechanisms that enhance knowledge accretion in cross‐sector partnerships. The data also suggest that formalized organizational mechanisms are more influential for producing ACAP than informal mechanisms.”

Co‐creation for Sustainable Development: The Bounds of NGO Contributions to Inclusive Business,” Business Strategy and Development, Tytti Nahi

Abstract: The sustainable development agenda is placing increasing expectations on business and cross‐sector partnerships. One of the rising propositions is that companies and non‐governmental organizations (NGOs) can co‐create inclusive business ventures that are simultaneously both profitable and poverty reducing. A considerable number of studies have found that NGOs can bring valuable knowledge, capabilities, contacts, and legitimacy to these initiatives. This paper deepens the discussion from what NGOs can contribute to how and to what extent. Based on practice theory and a two‐and‐half‐year study of 7 inclusive business partnerships between companies and NGOs, this study finds that NGO representatives contribute to inclusive business initiatives by skillfully drawing on and adapting their potential resources and practices. However, this study identifies five factors that bound NGO contributions. Thereby, this paper advances a nuanced discussion of the potential and the limitations of partnerships as a means of combining poverty alleviation and profitability.”

Cross-Sector Partnerships: An Examination of Success Factors,” Business and Society Review, Laura Pincus Hartman and Kanwalroop Kathy Dhanda

Abstract: “In this paper, we examine the drivers involved in an alternative business model: cross-sector social partnerships (CSSPs) between for-profit, predominantly multinational corporations (MNCs) and nonprofit organizations (NPOs). We explore these cross-sector social partnerships (CSSPs) from the perspective of these primary stakeholders, examining the questions of power differentials and the definitions and determinants of success. In order more deeply to understand these drivers, we review the evolution of the concept of ‘value’ and the perception of the value that each stakeholder brings to the partnership. We then describe and offer the results of an empirical, qualitative study of 18 CSSPs, where we analyze each partner’s representations of success, outcomes sought and distinctions in determinants of value within the partnerships.”

Use of Social Impact Bonds to Address Social Problems: Understanding Contractual Risks and Transaction Costs,” Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Sheela Pandey; Joseph J. Cordes; Sanjay K.

Abstract: “Social impact bonds, a recent innovation in social finance, are designed to harness capital and knowledge from private nonprofit, for‐profit, and public entities to address pressing social problems. Although there is great policy interest in understanding how social impact bonds can be used to tackle social problems, the emergent nature of social impact bonds makes it hard to find relevant data and evidence. To overcome this challenge, we use single‐significant‐case sampling as our research design strategy. We conduct an in‐depth case study of the Social Innovation Financing Youth Recidivism Project in Massachusetts. Our case study is comprised of a qualitative analysis of the multiparty contract and multiyear quantitative benefit–cost analysis to understand transaction costs. We draw upon contract theory to develop an analytical framework for the case analysis and highlight the risks and safeguards for the various parties to the contract, and conduct a formal benefit–cost analysis to map out transaction costs. We conclude with a discussion of study implications and future research.”

Other recently released research on cross-sector collaboration: