Research Briefing, January/February 2021

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 bimonthly 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 briefing includes articles and reports about:

  • downstream problems in collaborative governance,
  • non-profit autonomy in cross-sector collaborations,
  • product-focused action in cross-sector partnerships,
  • pathways to lasting cross-sector collaborations, and
  • impact investing through public policy.

Radical and Disruptive Answers to Downstream Problems in Collaborative Governance?,” Public Management Review, Eva Sørensen and Jacob Torfing

Abstract: “The research on collaborative governance has focused on the upstream problems concerning the recruitment of actors, facilitation of collaboration and the fostering of agreement. However, the main problems are possibly located downstream after a decision is made and thus relate to the implementation of joint solutions, the evaluation of the results and the attempt to hold the actors to account. Based on new theoretical developments, this article explores some radical and disruptive responses to these downstream problems. Our findings are that while these responses are making good progress in solving downstream problems, we are not quite there yet.

Loss or Gain? Unpacking Nonprofit Autonomy-Interdependence Paradox in Collaborations,” The American Review of Public Administration, Chengxin Xu and Mirae Kim

Abstract: “Nonprofit organizations interested in collaborating with other entities find it difficult to strike a balance between keeping their autonomy and reaping the benefits from collaborating with other organizations. Although interorganizational collaborations come with various benefits, such as reducing competition over limited resources, participating in collaborative relationships can also damage the autonomy of individual nonprofits. Using an original survey of 275 nonprofits, we examine how various dimensions of collaborative relationships affect an individual nonprofit’s autonomy. Our findings suggest that having highly specified administrative arrangements and stronger trust as well as reciprocity among partner organizations serve as critical factors to secure the autonomy of individual organizations. We also find that nonprofit organizations engaged in mostly informal relationships and in partnerships across sectors feel less threatened about maintaining their autonomy. Our post hoc analysis further suggests that organizational autonomy is a significant antecedent for seeking more collaborations. To this end, we discuss how nonprofits can keep their organizational autonomy without giving up collaborating with other entities by strategically managing several aspects of the collaborative relationships.

The Targeted ‘Solution’ in the Spotlight: How a Product Focus Influences Collective Action Within and Beyond Cross-Sector Partnerships,” Business & Society, Lea Stadtler and Özgü Karakulak

Abstract: “Based on a comparative case study of six cross-sector partnerships (CSPs) in global health, we illustrate how a CSP’s aim to address a social issue on the basis of products influences the governance of collective action within the partnership and beyond, at the field level. We show how such product focus, through specialization, influences a CSP’s structures and interaction culture and, as a reflection of the partners’ underlying logics, generates different CSP-field effects. Specifically, if conceived as self-contained and without considering the implications for other field players and programs, a product focus may expedite collective action within the CSP, but spur fragmentation and disruption at the field level. Conversely, if designed to strengthen field capacity and integration at the product-field interlinkages, a product focus may take longer to form but helps avoid the above field effects. On this basis, we advance theory on CSPs’ product focus as a multilevel coordination mechanism and elaborate on the implications for designing product-based CSPs.

Pathways to Lasting Cross-Sector Collaboration: A Configurational Study,” Journal of Business Ethics, Christiana Weber, Helen Haugh, Markus Göbel, and Hannes Leonardy

Abstract: “Cross-sector social collaborations are increasingly recognised as valuable inter-organizational arrangements that seek to combine the commercial capabilities of private sector companies with the deep knowledge of social and environmental issues enrooted in social sector organizations. In this paper we empirically examine the configurations of conditions that lead to lasting cross-sector social collaboration. Situating our enquiry in Schütz’s theory of life-worlds and the reciprocity literature, we employ fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to analyse data gathered from 60 partners in 30 cross-sector social collaborations. We find two distinct types of configurational pathways leading to lasting cross-sector social collaboration which we label reciprocal economic exchange based on direct reciprocity, and reciprocal social exchange based on generalised reciprocity. The pathways vary in terms of the delivery of expected and unexpected resources and benefits. We introduce the concept of double relationality to explain the interdependence of structure and action in lasting cross sector social collaboration.

Strategies for Advancing Impact Investing through Public Policy,” Urban Institute, Laura Tomasko, Brett Theodos, Matthew Eldridge, and Jein Park

Abstract: “Periods of crisis remind us that our economic system often prioritizes short-term financial returns that concentrate wealth over sustainable and inclusive growth that addresses long-standing inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic and the movement for racial justice have shined a spotlight on stark inequities that are simultaneously acute and chronic. Impact investing, which can catalyze social and environmental impact for long-term structural change, is one way to address these inequities. By strengthening and strategically using policy advocacy and engagement skills, impact investing leaders can work with the federal government to advance the common good.

We wrote this brief to help leaders in the impact investing field and people supporting them better understand and engage in the policymaking process and champion impact investing to federal legislative and executive policymakers.

Other recently released research on cross-sector collaboration: