Research Briefing, July/August 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:

  • data sharing in cross-sector collaborations,
  • cross-sector dialogue for sustainability,
  • public-private partnerships in COVID-19 emergency response, 
  • the concept of place and the structure of cross-sector partnerships, and
  • legitimacy and accountability in collaborative governance.


Data Sharing in Cross-Sector Collaborations: Insights from Integrated Data Systems,Urban Institute, Eva H. Allen, Haley Samuel-Jakubos, and Timothy A. Waidmann

Abstract: Data sharing is a key component of cross-sector collaborations to address the health and social needs of people and reduce inequities. However, achieving efficient exchange of information across partners from health care, public health, and social services can be challenging. Several states use integrated data systems to link administrative individual-level data across multiple health and human services programs to better understand and address the health and social needs of those who use such services. In this paper, we summarize findings from a study examining established integrated data systems to learn about the facilitators and barriers to successful cross sector data-sharing efforts.

Ambidexterity in Cross-Sector Collaborations Involving Public Organizations,” Public Performance & Management Review, Stephen B. Page, John M. Bryson, Barbara C. Crosby, Danbi Seo, Melissa Middleton Stone 

Abstract: This article extends the concept of organizational ambidexterity to encompass knowledge exploration and exploitation in cross-sector collaborations. Collaborations are frequently charged to devise or implement innovative solutions to longstanding complex public problems. Research on organizational management suggests that the capability to both explore and exploit knowledge—dubbed organizational ambidexterity—is an important contributor to innovation and long-term organizational performance. If cross-sector collaborations must innovate to address long standing problems, and innovation requires the ability to explore and exploit knowledge, then collaborations too should benefit from developing ambidextrous capabilities. Using an illustrative case of a large-scale cross-sector collaboration in the transportation field, we investigate whether and how a cross-sector collaboration can explore and exploit knowledge. Based on our analysis, we demonstrate that collaborative ambidexterity exists and discuss external antecedents and mechanisms internal to the collaboration that enable collaborative ambidexterity. We conclude with a set of propositions to advance theory and provide an agenda for future research.

Cross-sector dialogue for sustainability: To partner or not to partner?,” Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Céline Louche, Suzanne Young, Martin Fougère 

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to introduce the topic and review the contributions of the special issue papers on cross-sector dialogue for sustainability. The paper also presents avenues for further research. The paper is based on a review of the current literature on cross-sector partnership and dialogue. It explores the current issues in cross-sector partnerships through a discussion of the papers accepted for the special issue, their focus, findings, and key contributions. It highlights three main key research themes and learnings from the special issue papers: 1) a high level of ‘hybridity’ of collaboration forms, which involve important tensions; 2) a need to understand partnership in its context; 3) the importance of the individual level in cross-sector collaboration. The authors call for attention to be paid to two forms of myopia: a tendency to view partnerships primarily from a resource-based view (without much attempt to measure societal impact) and a reluctance to be explicitly critical (despite empirical evidence of some suboptimal aspects of partnerships). The authors call for researchers to move away from a resource based approach to one that is situated in exploring the value derived from partnerships in the broader societal context. We suggest some avenues for further research to move the discussion beyond the partnership imperative. The paper outlines the need to critically revisit the very essence of what real partnership means and whether dialogue is really taking place.

Public-Private Partnerships in Emergency Response: A Case Study of Milwaukee’s Civic Response Team,” Collective Impact Forum (FSG and Aspen Institute), Paul Schmitz

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic was an all-hands-on-deck moment. As communities were jolted into emergency response on many fronts—health, jobs, housing, education, childcare, food, and mental health—collaboration and coordination became essential. In Milwaukee, the Civic Response Team united local governments, philanthropy, and nonprofits to collectively manage response and recovery. In just weeks, they housed hundreds of people, delivered tens of thousands of meals, built and promoted a COVID-19 testing system, distributed hundreds of thousands of masks, provided families with technology to connect to school, rescued childcare providers, and soothed anxieties and grief. This paper studies how the public-private partnerships within the Civic Response Team worked during their first year, and shows what we can learn from them to support better partnership and emergency response in the future.

COVID-19 Will Bring Us Together: The Dynamics of Place and the Structure of Cross-Sector Partnership,” Academy of Management: Annual meeting Proceedings, Mohamed Hassan Awad 

Abstract: Local places, such as communities, cities, and towns, host many cross-cross sector partnerships primarily towards alleviating social and environmental issues on the local level. Yet, existing literature has focused on large-scale systemic impact and global challenges such as climate change, paying scant attention to the role of these local dynamics in shaping cross-sector partnerships. In this article, I advance the concept of place, a geographic location imbued with specific meaning systems and material resources, to unpack how local embeddedness shapes the structure of cross-sector partnerships. I focus on elements of formalized structure, specifically the scope of operations, partners’ roles, and shared resources. I employ a longitudinal approach focusing on two place-based dynamics: the changes in the wicked problem, and the subsequent shifts in the tensions between the moral and material considerations of the partners. I investigate these shifts using a three-year field study of Occupy Medical, a local partnership between the civic society and the local government in Eugene, Oregon, tackling the wicked problem of providing healthcare to marginalized and disenfranchised communities, mainly the homeless. The analysis covers a nine-year period of 2011 – 2020 and various restructurings of the organization, the latest prompted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. I unpack a dynamic relationship between the two partners in response to place-based dynamics captured in shifts in the organizational structure. I theorize two forms of structural arrangements between the partners, loosely and tightly-coupled, and further elaborate on the role of cross-sector partnerships in crisis response on the local level.

Having it all: can collaborative governance be both legitimate and accountable?,” Public Management Review, Daniela Cristofoli,Scott Douglas,Jacob Torfing &Benedetta Trivellato

Abstract: Collaborative governance arrangements are frequently criticized for achieving collaboration at the expense of legitimacy and accountability. We explore the conditions under which legitimacy and accountability can occur in collaborative governance, ultimately aiming to discover whether collaborative arrangements can ‘have it all’, simultaneously being both legitimate and accountable. We leverage the Collaborative Governance Case Database to analyse a diversity of cases, employing a rich, qualitative comparative analysis. We find that legitimacy and accountability do co-exist in some cases and identify competing sets of conditions for this concurrence. Based on this exploration, we formulate propositions for future research.