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Stuck in the Middle: Maintaining the Organizational Legitimacy of the Regional Environmental Center

  • Thomas O’BrienEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Maintenance of legitimacy is central to the survival of any organization and is of particular importance to non-governmental organizations (NGO) reliant on external sources of income. Interaction with the external environment plays an important role in determining organizational legitimacy, shaping actions and determining opportunities. The ability of an organization to effectively respond to and influence the external environment can potentially strengthen its legitimacy. This paper considers the issue of organizational legitimacy by using resource dependence and institutional theories to analyze the development of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC). The findings indicate that it is possible for an organization to maintain legitimacy through adaptation, responding to the rise and fall of external opportunities and challenges. As predicted by institutional theory, it also argues that external environmental factors place increasing pressure for conformity over time, limiting scope to manoeuvre over the longer-term.

Keywords

Regional Environmental Center Resource dependence Institutional theory East Central Europe Support organizations 

Résumé

Le maintien de la légitimité est essentiel pour la survie de toute organisation, et il revêt une importance particulière pour les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) qui dépendent de sources de revenus extérieures. Le rapport avec le monde extérieur joue un rôle déterminant pour établir la légitimité de l’organisation, orienter les actions et identifier des possibilités. La capacité d’une organisation à réagir efficacement et à exercer une influence sur le monde extérieur peut potentiellement renforcer sa légitimité. Cette étude se penche sur la question de la légitimité d’une organisation par la théorie de la dépendance des ressources et les théories institutionnelles afin d’analyser le développement du centre environnemental régional pour l’Europe centrale et l’Europe de l’Est (REC). Les conclusions indiquent qu’il est possible pour une organisation de conserver sa légitimité en s’adaptant et en prenant des mesures au gré des possibilités et des défis extérieurs. Comme la théorie institutionnelle le laisse prévoir, elle affirme, en outre, que les facteurs environnementaux extérieurs exercent une pression de la conformité croissante au fil du temps, limitant la marge de manœuvre sur le long terme.

Zusammenfassung

Die Wahrung der Legitimität ist für den Fortbestand einer jeden Organisation wichtig und nimmt insbesondere für nicht-staatliche Organisationen, die von externen Einnahmequellen abhängen, einen zentralen Stellenwert ein. Die Wechselbeziehung zum externen Umfeld spielt bei der Bestimmung der organisatorischen Legitimität, der Planung von Aktivitäten und der Erkennung von Gelegenheiten eine wichtige Rolle. Die Fähigkeit einer Organisation, effektiv auf das externe Umfeld zu reagieren und dieses zu beeinflussen, kann ihre Legitimität stabilisieren. Dieser Beitrag behandelt das Problem der organisatorischen Legitimität und greift auf die Ressourcenabhängigkeits- und Institutionentheorien zurück, um die Entwicklung des Regionalen Umweltzentrums für Mittel- und Osteuropa (Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, REC) zu untersuchen. Die Ergebnisse weisen darauf hin, dass es Organisationen möglich ist, ihre Legitimität durch Anpassung zu wahren, d. h. indem sie entsprechend auf Änderungen externer Chancen und Herausforderungen reagieren. Entsprechend der Institutionentheorie wird behauptet, dass die Faktoren des externen Umfelds mit der Zeit verstärkt Konformität verlangen und so den Handlungsspielraum langfristig einschränken.

Resumen

La conservación de la legitimidad es necesario para la supervivencia de cualquier organización y de vital importancia para las organizaciones no gubernamentales (ONG), que dependen de fuentes de financiación externas. La interacción con el entorno externo desempeña un importante papel para determinar la legitimidad organizativa, elaborar las acciones y determinar las oportunidades. La capacidad de una organización para responder con eficacia al entorno externo e influir en él puede reforzar potencialmente su legitimidad. El presente trabajo analiza la cuestión de la legitimidad organizativa utilizando la dependencia de recursos y las teorías institucionales para analizar el desarrollo del Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC). Según sus resultados, es posible que una organización conserve la legitimidad a través de la adaptación, respondiendo al aumento y al descenso de las oportunidades y retos externos. Tal y como predice la teoría institucional, también argumenta que los factores relacionados con el entorno externo imponen una presión cada vez mayor para la conformidad en el tiempo, limitando el alcance para maniobrar a largo plazo.

摘要

维护合法性是任何组织得以生存的中心,对于依赖于外来收入来源对的非政府组织(英语缩写 NGO)尤其重要。与外部环境的相互交流在决定组织合法性、塑造行动及决定机会中具有极为重要的作用。一个组织对外部环境进行有效反应并施之于影响的能力可以潜在地加强其合法性。本论文通过使用资源依赖性和体制理论,对中欧与东欧地区环境中心(英语缩写 REC)进行分析以判断组织合法性问题 。研究结果表明一个组织有可能维护其合法性,方法为通过顺应变化、对外部机遇和挑战起伏做出反应。 正如体制理论所预料的,它也提出理由证明外部环境因素将随着时间的推移对一致性增加压力,在较长时期后会对进行操纵的范围有所限制。

要約

合法性の維持は、あらゆる組織の生き残りにおいても中心的課題であり、特に外部の収入源に頼る非営利団体(NGO)にとっては重要である。外部環境との相互作用は、組織的な合法性の決定、運営の形成、機会の決定において重要な役割を果たしている。外部環境への影響と反応への組織的な能力においては、潜在的に合法性を強化することが可能である。本論文では、リソースの依存と制度上の理論を用いて、組織的な合法性の問題を考慮し、中央・東ヨーロッパ(REC)の地域環境センターの開発を分析する。調査結果では、組織が外部における機会と挑戦の数の増減に応じて、合法性と適合性を維持することが可能であることが明らかとなった。また、制度上の理論によって予測されるように、外部の環境要因が、より長期間にわたる運営の範囲を制限し、時間の経過につれて一致させるためにプレッシャーを与えることを主張する。

ملخص

صيانة الشرعية أمر أساسي لبقاء أي منظمة وذات أهمية خاصة للمنظمات الغير الحكومية(NGO) التي تعتمد على مصادر خارجية للدخل. التفاعل مع البيئة الخارجية يلعب دوراً هاماً في تحديد الشرعية التنظيمية ، صياغة الإجراءات وتحديد الفرص. قدرة المنظمة على الإستجابة بفعالية والتأثير في البيئة الخارجية يمكن أن يعزز شرعيتها. هذا البحث يضع في الإعتبار الشرعية التنظيمية من خلال إستخدام الموارد ، والاعتماد على النظريات المؤسسية لتحليل تطور المركز الإقليمي للبيئة لوسط وشرق أوروبا (REC). هذه النتائج تشير إلى أنه من الممكن للمنظمة الحفاظ على الشرعية من خلال التكيف ، والإستجابة لإرتفاع وإنخفاض الفرص الخارجية والتحديات. كما توقعت النظرية المؤسسية ، أيضاً تجادل بأن العوامل البيئية الخارجية تضع ضغطا متزايدا مناسب مع مرور الوقت ، مما يحد من نطاق للمناورة على المدى الطويل.

Notes

Acknowledgements

A Postgraduate Overseas Research Experience Scholarship (PORES) from the University of Melbourne supported this research. Versions of the argument covered in this paper were presented at the 55th Australasian Political Studies Association (APSA) Conference, 24–26 September 2007, Monash University, Melbourne, and at the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) Conference, 9–11 October 2009, Liverpool Hope University. The author is grateful to the European Research Institute (ERI) at the University of Birmingham for hosting him during the early stages of the project and would like to thank Jon Oldfield for helping formulate the research plan. The paper benefited from comments from Petra Mäkelä and the journal reviewers. The author would also like to thank the interview subjects for sharing their time and knowledge.

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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The John's Hopkins University 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social and Political SciencesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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