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Exploring the effects of liminality on corporate social responsibility in inter-firm outsourcing relationships

Abstract

This article draws on the evidence gathered from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) research project in the area of global information technology (IT) outsourcing to examine the impact of liminality. IT outsourcing offers a novel context to study this phenomena, as it operates across the boundaries of both firm and country. The case study focuses on the specific project of a school in India, as the liminal space found ‘betwixt and between’ the client and provider of IT outsourcing services. Three stages of liminality are identified: separation (divestiture), transition (liminality) and incorporation (investiture); through the interpretive analysis of the empirical material. The construct of communitas is proposed for analysing the impact of liminality on the relationship between an outsourcing client and the provider. The understanding of liminality and communitas has both theoretical and practical implications, and contributes to the understanding of relationships and the wider role of CSR in global IT outsourcing.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Séamas Kelly of University College Dublin for his contributing thoughts on liminality and communitas to the research team. Our thanks also to Chris Westrup, Paul Cousins and Maia Green (all of University of Manchester) for comments on previous drafts.

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Correspondence to Brian Nicholson.

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Nicholson, B., Babin, R. & Briggs, S. Exploring the effects of liminality on corporate social responsibility in inter-firm outsourcing relationships. J Inf Technol 32, 47–61 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/jit.2015.24

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Keywords

  • outsourcing
  • CSR
  • liminality
  • global IT
  • corporate strategy