Stakeholder engagement and dialogue have a central role in defining the relations between organisations and their internal and external interlocutors. Drawing upon the analysis of dialogic motifs, power–conflict dynamics and sociopolitical perspectives, and based on a set of interviews with the stakeholders of a consumer-owned cooperative, the research explores the dialogic potential of stakeholder engagement. The analysis revealed a fragmented picture where the co-design and co-implementation aspects were mainly related to the non-business areas of cooperative life, while business logic dominated the most central aspects. Stakeholder engagement was mainly related to consensus building, while dialogic engagement based on a pluralistic understanding was only partially considered and then neglected. The social capital in the local area, the growing size of the organisation and the related power structure embrace stakeholder engagement, influencing the orientation of the (un)dialogic dynamic. The analysis indicates that a dialogic exchange is a relative concept which depends on the interests involved and the topics discussed. It also reveals that the key factors in the democratisation of stakeholder engagement are a mutual understanding and long-term opportunities. Common sociopolitical aspects are also important, but they do not necessarily guarantee the creation of dialogism paths. The research contributes to the critical dialogic literature in revealing whether and how stakeholder engagement has been implemented in a specific setting. It also shows the limitations of voluntarist stakeholder engagement initiatives.
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This research has been financially supported by The Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research with the PRIN Project 2010–11 “GOESE – Global Observatory on the Evolution of the Sustainable Enterprise”.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Appendix 1: Interviews Summary
|Category of stakeholder||Role of the person interviewed||Code||Period||Duration (minutes)|
|Social non-profit organisation 1||Technical manager||S-NPO1||June 14||113.00|
|Social non-profit organisation 2||Project manager||S-NPO2||May 14||84.00|
|Social non-profit organisation 3||President||S-NPO3||June 14||84.00|
|Environmental non-profit organisation 1||Head of marketing for the Italian division of an international not governmental organisation||E-NPO1||June 14||73.00|
|Environmental non-profit organisation 2||Head of consumer policies of a national non-profit association||E-NPO2||June 14||87.00|
|Members and consumers 1||President of a local section||MC1||April 14||90.00|
|Members and consumers 2||Representative of members in the cooperative board of directors and president of a local section||MC2||April 14||57.00|
|Members and consumers 3||President of a local section||MC3||April 14||48.00|
|Members and consumers 4||President of a local section||MC4||April 14||45.00|
|Suppliers 1||Consortium of agricultural producers||SUP1||May 14||97.00|
|Suppliers 2||Local representative of national agricultural body||SUP2||May 14||81.00|
|Suppliers 3||Local representative of Italian farmers confederation||SUP3||May 14||95.00|
|Public administration 1||President of a municipal hall of a metropolitan city||PA1||June 14||65.00|
|Public administration 2||Mayor of a city of major investment for the cooperative||PA2||Oct 13||65.00|
|Employees 1||Labour union representative||EMP1||May 14||78.00|
|Employees 2||Labour union representative||EMP2||July 14||85.00|
Appendix 2: Interview Guide
General information about the interviewee: name, job position, employment history within her/his organisation, key characteristics of her/his organisation.
Identification of the nature, longevity and frequency of interaction with Alpha’s representatives.
Specification of the involvement of the interviewee with Alpha.
Grade of importance—in terms of influencing—Alpha towards the interviewee’s organisation.
Level Alpha provides the interviewee’s organisation with material or immaterial resources.
Level of impact of the interviewee’s organisation on Alpha.
Evaluation of Alpha’s ability to meet stakeholders’ expectations.
Description of Alpha’s impacts in a specific context with which the interviewee is familiar.
Level of trustworthiness towards Alpha’s commitments for future interactions with the interviewee’s organisation.
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Passetti, E., Bianchi, L., Battaglia, M. et al. When Democratic Principles are not Enough: Tensions and Temporalities of Dialogic Stakeholder Engagement. J Bus Ethics 155, 173–190 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3500-z
- Stakeholder engagement
- Stakeholder dialogue
- Dialogic theory
- Consumer-owned cooperative
- Social accounting
- Critical dialogic accounting
- Dialogic accounting