Research Briefing, June 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:

  • understanding systemic change in the context of cross-sector partnerships,
  • decision-making processes in multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainability,
  • the ability to collaborate in the absence of trust,
  • clusters and innovation districts,
  • collaborative place-based impact investment,
  • the changing nature of government-foundation relationships, and
  • how institutional arrangements shape stakeholder influence on policy decisions.

Cross-Sector Partnerships for Systemic Change: Systematized Literature Review and Agenda for Further Research,” Journal of Business Ethics, Amelia Clarke and Andrew Crane

Abstract: “The literature on cross-sector partnerships has increasingly focused attention on broader systemic or system-level change. However, research to date has been partial and fragmented, and the very idea of systemic change remains conceptually underdeveloped. In this article, we seek to better understand what is meant by systemic change in the context of cross-sector partnerships and use this as a basis to discuss the contributions to the Thematic Symposium. We present evidence from a broad, multidisciplinary systematized review of the extant literature, develop an original definition of systemic change, and offer a framework for understanding the interactions between actors, partnerships, systemic change, and issues. We conclude with some suggestions for future research that we believe will enhance the literature in its next phase of development.”

Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Sustainability: Designing Decision-Making Processes for Partnership Capacity,” Journal of Business Ethics, Adriane MacDonald, Amelia Clarke, and Lei Huang

Abstract: “To address the prevalence and complexities of sustainable development challenges around the world, organizations in the business, government, and non-profit sectors are increasingly collaborating via multi-stakeholder partnerships. Because complex problems can be neither understood nor addressed by a single organization, it is necessary to bring together the knowledge and resources of many stakeholders. Yet, how these partnerships coordinate their collaborative activities to achieve mutual and organization-specific goals is not well understood. This study takes an organization design perspective of collaborative decision-making processes to explore how they impact the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder partnerships. We compare the decision-making processes of 94 sustainability-focused multi-stakeholder partnerships and find that collaborative decision-making has an indirect and positive impact on partnership capacity through systems that keep partners informed, coordinate partner interactions, and facilitate ongoing learning. The implications of this study for multi-stakeholder partnership research and practice are that partnership capacity is contingent on the design of decision-making processes, as well as internal mechanisms that coordinate and monitor collaborative activities.”

Collaborating in the Absence of Trust? What Collaborative Governance Theory and Practice Can Learn From the Literatures of Conflict Resolution, Psychology, and Law,” The American Review of Public Administration, Heather Getha-Taylor, Misty J. Grayer, Robin J. Kempf, and Rosemary O’Leary

Abstract“Trust is often touted as both an element of success and an outcome of interest in collaboration research, usually without defining the term or acknowledging the possibility of collaborating when trust is diminished or absent. This article broadens our theoretical understanding of the concept of trust, and the ability to collaborate in the absence of trust, by looking at it through the lenses of conflict resolution, psychology, and law. The disciplines examined in this article emphasize diverse approaches to examining trust on the interpersonal, interorganizational, and regime levels. While agreeing that trust is an asset, these disciplines also offer practical strategies for collaborating when trust is diminished or absent. Drawing on the theory and literature of conflict resolution, psychology, and law, we offer the following definition of collaborative trust: Collaborative trust is an individual perception that is the product of one’s assessments, experiences, and dispositions, in which one believes, and is willing to act on, the words, actions, and decisions of others. This can include a reliance on principles, rules, norms, and decision-making procedures that articulate collective expectations.”

Clusters and Innovation Districts: Lessons from the United States Experience,” The Brookings Institution, Martin Neil Baily and Nicholas Montalbano

“Policymakers who wish to increase the growth of their economies and promote employment and the creation of well-paid jobs must understand the role played by place and geography and incorporate this understanding into their policy decisions. Universities who wish to commercialize their research, and more innovative, can also take advantage of place and geography. Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions. They can contain anchor institutions, small firms, start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. The key driver in the formation of clusters or districts is that firms and researchers benefit from locating near each other, which is an extensively studied phenomenon in the economic development literature. The value placed on geographic proximity is of high importance given that innovation is a deeply human and creative endeavor that requires personal networks and trust that can be built more easily with diverse and talented people close together. Clusters (or innovation districts) have been found to increase the innovation levels, efficiency, and productivity with which participating companies can compete, nationally and globally. By means of case studies and review of the literature, this paper will examine and analyze the nature of clusters and innovation districts and draw lessons for policymakers and local actors involved in developing the clusters, such as universities, businesses, and local leaders.”

Investing Together: Emerging Approaches in Collaborative Place-Based Impact Investing,” Urban Institute Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Shena R. Ashley and Joycelyn Ovalle

“This report reveals that many collaborative initiatives operating to advance place-based impact investing are emerging all across the country in both rural and urban areas. They vary in scale from neighborhoods to multistate regions, they vary in focus from particular populations to systems change, and their compositions vary in philanthropic, private, and public sector participation. While it is clear that the particular set of practices or organizing frameworks for any one of these collaborative initiatives is unique to the community context and set of actors involved in a specific place, several commonalities and themes run across many of them. We draw on those common themes for this report to bring definitional clarity, to propose a set of models, and to identify key elements and roles that are emerging in this body of practice. The ambition here is that by codifying and making these definitions, models, elements, and roles explicit, those already undertaking these efforts are helped by seeing their particular approach in the context of a broader body of practice and that this report provides those looking to start this practice with some potential entry points and examples to learn from.”

Public Philanthropic Partnerships: The Changing Nature of Government/Foundation Relationships in the U.S.,”  International Journal of Public Administration, Stefan Toepler

Abstract“Relationships between foundations and the government in the United States have long been difficult with government attitudes ranging from hostile to at best indifferent in the past. American foundations have long claimed innovation as a distinctive function to perform in society in order to preserve their legitimacy. One hundred years after the rise of the large-scale American philanthropic foundation, however, the relationships between foundations and government have come into flux. Between demands from fiscally-strapped local governments and a new openness of state and federal governments to develop collaborative relationships, a variety of public-philanthropic partnerships have emerged that question the traditional roles and distribution of labor between philanthropy and the state. This article traces the historical development of the government/foundation relationship and discusses its changing nature using recession-induced ad hoc partnerships, the emergence of foundation liaison offices, and the Obama Administration’s Social Innovation Fund and Investing in Innovation program as examples.”

Exploring How Institutional Arrangements Shape Stakeholder Influence on Policy Decisions: A Comparative Analysis in the Energy Sector,Public Administration Review, Elizabeth Baldwin

Abstract: “In recent years, there has been an expansion of efforts to include stakeholders in administrative policy making. Despite significant potential to improve policy decisions, empirical evidence suggests that not all participatory processes provide meaningful opportunities for stakeholders to shape policy and may even give the most powerful stakeholder groups disproportionate influence over policy decisions. This article argues that the institutional arrangements for stakeholder engagement — the rules and norms that determine which stakeholders can participate and how — affect stakeholders’ influence on policy decisions. This article uses state energy efficiency policy making as a context in which to compare how different institutional arrangements shape the ways in which stakeholders engage in and influence the policy process across two states, Connecticut and Maryland. Findings highlight that institutional arrangements can be used to increase participation, mitigate undue influence of industrial stakeholders, and increase the influence of public interest stakeholder organizations.”

Other recently released research on cross-sector collaboration: