The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 457–482 | Cite as

Who matters for memory: Sources of institutional memory in international organization crisis management

  • Heidi HardtEmail author


Scholarship on organizational learning has explored how international organizations (IOs) reform but has paid little attention to the origins of institutional memory. For IOs engaged in crisis management operations, acquiring knowledge about strategic errors is necessary for adopting reforms that could save lives. This study seeks to identify the sources that affect whether or not IO elites will contribute knowledge to an IO’s institutional memory in crisis management. The study employs a survey experiment in the field on 120 NATO elites who decide on and plan operations. Findings indicate that when the United States introduces knowledge of a strategic error, NATO elites are significantly less likely to share it. This deterrent effect on knowledge-sharing illustrates an unexpected way in which the US influences international crisis management. The study also finds that an IO’s secretariat can somewhat increase elites’ likelihood of contributing to the IO’s institutional memory.


Institutional memory NATO Crisis management International security Organizational learning United States International organization 



I thank the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute for hosting me as I carried out the majority of the research for this study. I also thank the following scholars for their helpful feedback: Karisa Cloward, Brett Ashley Leeds, Alan Jacobs, Brigid Laffen, Ulrich Krotz, Jeffrey Knopf, Emilie Hafner-Burton, Martha Feldman, Maria Bermudez, Davin Phoenix, Michael Tesler, Ines Levin, Alexandra Raleigh, Marina Henke, Daniel Nielson, Brad LeVeck, Etel Solingen and Leslie Johns. I am grateful to participants who provided feedback on presentations of early drafts at the EUI Global Governance Programme, International Studies Association, the American Political Science Association, the ISSS-ISAC Conference, the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University, the Center for Organizational Research at the University of California, Irvine, the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California Conference on International Cooperation. I thank Alexandra Raleigh and Mary Anne Mendoza for their research assistance. I thank also the participants in this study, as well as the many administrative staff who helped facilitate my meetings with participants following my requests. I am grateful to the Fulbright Commission for funding this research through my Fulbright Schuman EUI Chair Fellowship.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, School of Social SciencesUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA

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