Meta-Organizations and Inter-Organizational Arrangements: A Partial Organization Framework

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Heloise BERKOWITZ, Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals, Spain, CNRS (UMR5303), TSM-Research, France
Sanne BOR, Hanken School of Economics, Finland
Recently, scholars have called for increased collective research efforts to theoretically and empirically investigate meta-organizations (Berkowitz & Bor, 2017; Lawton, Rajwani, & Minto, 2017; Spillman, 2017). The concept of meta-organization (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2005), covers a broad range of phenomena of collective action among organizations. Berkowitz and Bor (2017) show that while there is a growing understanding of the nature and functioning of meta-organizations, little work has closely examined differences between them and other devices for inter-organizational coordination and governance. Yet, Bor and Cropper (2016) have highlighted that meta-organization theory can richly borrow from multi-partner alliances literature (see for instance Das, 2015), whole networks (Provan, Fish, & Sydow, 2007) or other interorganizational arrangements (Phillips, Lawrence, & Hardy, 2000). Understanding where meta-organizations stand in the broad range of collective action among organizations is a critical issue to further develop a “European school of meta-organization”.

In this paper, we compare inter-organizational arrangements, including meta-organizations (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2005), policy networks (Jordana & Sancho, 2005), multi-partner alliances (Das, 2015), industrial districts (Becattini, 2004), and supply networks (Harland, Lamming, Zheng, & Johnsen, 2001). To do so, we develop a framework based on the concept of partial organization (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2010). For each arrangement type, we review five criteria: hierarchy, membership, rules, monitoring and sanctions. We then attribute grades for each criterion (from 0 to 5) depending on the level of strength. This leads us to develop spider-web diagrams for each inter-organizational arrangement, allowing us to compare them based on a partial organization profile.

This paper compares types of inter-organizational arrangements with two main objectives: 1) applying an organization theory framework to a literature that has mainly been using network theory, thus contributing to contrast inter-organizational arrangements 2) positioning meta-organizations on the spectrum of inter-organizational arrangements thus providing finer theoretical understanding of meta-organization’s nature.