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Collide or Collaborate: The Interplay of Competing Logics and Institutional Work in Cross-Sector Social Partnerships

Abstract

An increasing body of institutional research has examined organizations’ response to conflicting institutional logics, but few studies have looked into how cross-sector organizational actors experiencing institutional complexity strategize their response mechanisms to create value in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We conduct a comparative case study of nine social partnerships between multinational companies (MNCs) and nonprofits in China. We identify a partnership logic among the value-creating partnerships where partners guided by an either/and mindset take joint ownership of the social or sustainability issue/cause and integrate it into their core set of activities and goals. By contrast, the less successful partnerships guided by an either/or mindset pursue a substitution logic in which the issue and project are kept separate and marginalized from core activities and goals. We contribute to an understanding of the value creation of cross-sector social partnerships by revealing the institutional embeddedness of such partnerships and deriving a process model of collaborative value creation through institutional works in social partnerships.

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Acknowledgements

The first author would like to acknowledge the funding of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71672146, 71972014, 71810107002, 71672196). The authors would also like to thank conference participants in the Academy of Management conference, IACMR conference, Frontiers of Social Responsibility in China conference, and the helpful suggestions from three reviewers and the editor. The authors would like to thank all the interviewees who kindly shared their insight.

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Correspondence to Juelin Yin.

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Appendices

Appendix

Appendix Interview Guide

  1. 1.

    How are the partnerships initiated?

  2. 2.

    What are the criteria for selecting your nonprofit/business partners? How do you evaluate the “fit” with your partner before you agree to collaborate?

  3. 3.

    What are your goals for entering the partnership with nonprofit/business partners? Do your company and your nonprofit partners share similar goals and values?

  4. 4.

    Have you considered risks before and during the collaboration? What formal and informal risk assessment processes have you undertaken?

  5. 5.

    What resources (e.g., financial, human, physical, technological) have you invested in the partnership? What resources have your partners invested in the partnership?

  6. 6.

    How do you share information with your partner to strengthen their operations and programs?

  7. 7.

    What have you done to monitor the progress of the partnerships? Any formal or informal governance mechanisms to control risks?

  8. 8.

    Have you made adaptations to the collaboration goals, structure, design and operations along with your collaboration process? Why are these changes?

  9. 9.

    Is there any crisis situation that happened in the partnership implementation which had impact on your relationship? Are you able to work through differences?

  10. 10.

    How do you evaluate the value outcomes of the partnerships?

  11. 11.

    Do you feel pulled between trying to meet both your organization’s and the collaboration’s expectations? What have you done to address potential “mission drifts”?

  12. 12.

    What is the yearly budget of your department/organization? What about the budget for the collaboration?

  13. 13.

    What is your most successful partnership with nonprofits and what is the least successful experience? What makes for the differences?

  14. 14.

    Would you mind recommending your colleagues, your nonprofit partners and the other stakeholders of your company who might be interested and willing to participant in our interview? Thank you!

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Yin, J., Jamali, D. Collide or Collaborate: The Interplay of Competing Logics and Institutional Work in Cross-Sector Social Partnerships. J Bus Ethics 169, 673–694 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04548-8

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Keywords

  • Cross-sector social partnership
  • Institutional work
  • Institutional logic
  • MNC
  • Nonprofit
  • CSR