Research Briefing, September 2017

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:

  • leadership activities catalyzing cross-sector partnerships in sustainability,
  • assessing public value creation in mandated versus voluntary cross-sector collaborations,
  • stakeholder motivations in collaborative federal forest governance in Oregon,
  • processes involved in creating a collective identity in multi-stakeholder initiatives for sustainability,
  • how collaboration can be effective in environmental governance, and
  • how public and non-profit managers address the challenges of contract management in complex human service delivery,
  • along with a special issue on cross-sector collaboration from the Journal of Management Studies.

Collaborative Civil Society Organizations and Sustainable Cities: The Role of ‘Mobilizing Leadership’ in Building the Integral Commons,” Organization & Environment, Kevin McDermott, Elizabeth C. Kurucz, and Barry A. Colbert

Abstract: “Sustainability issues are characterized by their relational nature and so require stakeholders working across sectors to integrate their interests. This article conducts an empirical examination across seven convening organizations we describe as ‘Collaborative Civil Society Organizations’ to understand the intentional leadership activities that catalyze cross-sector social partnerships in the context of regional sustainability initiatives. Our research findings suggest that social movement theory can provide insight to inform our understanding of the nature of intentional leadership activities that help to motivate and initiate the formation of these cross-sector social partnerships. By enfolding this literature in the interpretation of our findings, we have articulated an empirically grounded construct of ‘mobilizing leadership.’ We suggest that by approaching regional sustainability initiatives as a social movement, mobilizing leadership has the potential to extend the cosmopolitan view toward building a biosphere consciousness, enabling the development of local multisector interactions in response to global issues of sustainability.”

Exploring Public Value in Cross-Sector Collaborations,” (dissertation), Auburn University, Melissa Bailey

Abstract: “This research study applies Page et al’s (2015) three-dimensional framework to better understand collaboration and public value in the public sector, and to expand our understanding of public value creation in cross-sector collaborations. This study applies the only existing cross-sector collaboration framework (Page et al, 2015) of its kind to a cross-sector collaboration with different characteristics than those identified in the original study. The questions that guided this research centered on whether public value was created by the Alabama Homeland Security Task Force during its tenure from 2003 to 2012. To answer this question, the three dimensions of Page et al’s (2015) framework: democratic accountability, procedural legitimacy, and substantive outcomes, were assessed. The assessment was completed utilizing a two-part qualitative study. First, the researcher conducted a document analysis to create a detailed project history of the task force from 2003-2012, and to capture the dynamics and structure of the task force. Second, semi-structured interviews were executed with 20 stakeholders that served on the task force between 2003 and 2012. The interview questions centered on the three-dimensional framework and the public value attributes that make up each dimension. Using Page et al’s (2015) three-dimensional framework, this study finds the Alabama Homeland Security Task Force was not successful in the creation of public value. The data analysis shows the task force was restricted in its ability to create public value because it was a mandated cross-sector collaboration. This suggests the need for future research which compares the implications of mandated collaborations and voluntary collaborations. Further exploration of the differences between mandated and voluntary collaborations should explore how to reduce the negative effects of mandated collaborations on the creation of public value. Page et al’s (2015) three-dimensional framework failed in its ability to assess public value creation in different and changing organizational cultures and socio-political conditions. Since cross-sector collaborations are dynamic in nature, more work is needed in this area to better assess public value creation.”

Comparison of USDA Forest Service and Stakeholder Motivations and Experiences in Collaborative Federal Forest Governance in the Western United States,” Environmental Management, Emily Jane Davis et al.

Abstract: “In the United States, over 191 million acres of land is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, a federal government agency. In several western U.S. states, organized collaborative groups have become a de facto governance approach to providing sustained input on management decisions on much public land. This is most extensive in Oregon, where at least 25 ‘forest collaboratives’ currently exist. This affords excellent opportunities for studies of many common themes in collaborative governance, including trust, shared values, and perceptions of success. We undertook a statewide survey of participants in Oregon forest collaboratives to examine differences in motivations, perceptions of success, and satisfaction among Forest Service participants (‘agency participants’), who made up 31% of the sample, and other respondents (‘non-agency’) who represent non-federal agencies, interest groups, citizens, and non-governmental groups. We found that agency participants differed from non-agency participants. They typically had higher annual incomes, and were primarily motivated to participate to build trust. However, a majority of all respondents were similar in not indicating any other social or economic motivations as their primary reason for collaborating. A majority also reported satisfaction with their collaborative — despite not ranking collaborative performance on a number of specific potential outcomes highly. Together, this suggests that collaboration in Oregon is currently perceived as successful despite not achieving many specific outcomes. Yet there were significant differences in socioeconomic status and motivation that could affect the ability of agency and non-agency participants to develop and achieve mutually-desired goals.”

‘Bigger, Bolder and more Ambitious’: Using a Boundary Object to Collaborate on Sustainability,” Academy of Management, Katre Leino, Gail Whiteman, and Kathryn Fahy

Abstract: “Cross-sector collaborative projects bring together diverse stakeholder organisations to work on complex social and environmental issues. Questions remain about what kinds of cross-sector organisational forms might be necessary for systemic change and how collaboration is achieved in projects focused on systemic thinking and acting. We analyse a cross-sector multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) as a form of ‘temporary organisation’ and identify key processes in creating a collective identity that enable progress to be made in the start-up phase of a project focused on systemic change. Our findings draw from an ethnography of an MSP on sustainable human nutrition, a new project managed by a well-known platform-convening organisation. Our findings demonstrate the development and use of a system map by participants as a powerful ‘boundary object’ to facilitate collaboration among nine diverse organisations including nature and human welfare focused NGOs, food retailers, and food producers. Our study demonstrates how the use of this boundary object facilitated the creation of a collective identity within the temporary organisation of the MSP. This was achieved through three processes realised in their interactions with the boundary object: creating a shared understanding of the system; changing mind-sets; and creating a sense of ownership of the issues. The findings also highlight the importance of participants’ understanding and identification of their part in the system they seek to change and the role and nature of boundary objects that facilitate this.”

Special Issue: Public-Private Collaboration, Hybrid Organizational Design and Social Value,” Journal of Management Studies

The September Issue of the Journal of Management Studies is a special issue on cross-sector collaboration. Articles include “From Animosity to Affinity: The Interplay of Competing Logics and Interdependence in Cross-Sector Partnerships,” “Understanding Value Creation in Public-Private Partnerships: A Comparative Case Study,” and “Alliances between Firms and Non-profits: A Multiple and Behavioural Agency Approach” (see our blog post from the authors of this article here).

Collaborative Environmental Governance: Achieving Collective Action in Social-ecological Systems,” Science, Örjan Bodin

Abstract: “By its nature, environmental governance requires collaboration. However, studies have shown that various types of stakeholders often lack the willingness to deliberate and contribute to jointly negotiated solutions to common environmental problems. Bodin reviews studies and cases that elucidate when, if, and how collaboration can be effective and what kind of environmental problems are most fruitfully addressed in this way. The piece provides general conclusions about the benefits and constraints of collaborative approaches to environmental management and governance and points out that there remain substantial knowledge gaps and key areas where more research is needed.”

The managerial and relational dimensions of public-nonprofit human service contracting,” Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation, Bowen McBeath, Sarah Carnochan, Marla Stuart, and Michael J Austin

Abstract: “Public-non-profit contracting for human services is complicated by the difficulty of fully specifying contracts in the face of complex human service delivery issues. To understand how public and non-profit agencies resolve these complications while serving client populations effectively and meeting public accountability requirements, this article examines the following research question: given the complexity of human service delivery, how do public and non-profit managers address the challenges of contract management? The study analyzes qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with managers from three San Francisco Bay Area county human service agencies and three non-profit agencies contracting with these public agencies to deliver human services. Findings uncover the deeply relational and collaborative nature of human service contracting amidst technical challenges that reflect the underlying complexity of human service delivery. The results also show how public and non-profit managers address these dynamics to inform the task of organizing and delivering human services.”

Other recently released research on cross-sector collaboration: