36th EGOS Colloquium
Organizing for a Sustainable Future:
Responsibility, Renewal & Resistance
University of Hamburg
July 2–4, 2020
36th EGOS Colloquium
July 2–4, 2020
Over the last decades, in the context of considering more sustainable economic practices, there has been growing attention
to “alternative” organizational forms (Barin Cruz et al., 2017; Parker et al., 2014). Despite a variety of definitions and
foci, most authors suggest that alternative organizational forms are characterized by structures and practices that ‘exhibit
values, modes of exchanges, work, ownership and practices that do not follow the logic of capitalist accumulation and profit
maximization concentrated in private ends’ (Zanoni et al., 2015: 623). Alternative organizational forms include, for example,
cooperatives (Nelson et al., 2016), mutual organizations (Cornforth, 2004), worker-owned enterprises (Esper et al., 2017),
or social enterprises (Battilana & Lee, 2014; Defourny & Nyssens, 2006). Among the distinctive characteristics of
these economic organizations, we can find: absent or limited distribution of profits (Levi, 2005; Périlleux et al., 2012),
democratic and participatory governance (Cornforth, 2004; Spear, 2004), and a primary aim to serve a cause and build a more
sustainable society as a whole (Birchall, 2013; Borzaga & Defourny, 2003).
Backed by like-minded social movements such as the environmental, transition, degrowth or Occupy movements (Rao et al., 2000; Reinecke, 2018; Schneiberg, 2013; Sine & Lee, 2009), alternative organizations not only experiment with distinctive organizational forms and practices, they also collaborate to pursue institutional change towards more sustainable, if not “postcapitalist”, economies (Barin Cruz et al., 2017; Parker et al., 2014; Zanoni et al., 2017). To pursue this aim, collaborative practices have emerged and evolved from bilateral collaboration towards multilateral networks and other meta-organizational types (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2004; Berkowitz & Dumez, 2016), in the context of increasingly visible ecosystems termed as the “cooperative”, “solidarity” or “postcapitalist” economy (Frère, 2013; Zanoni et al., 2017). For example, the cooperative principles extend beyond internal governance rules to also include the importance of cooperation among cooperatives (Birchall, 2013; Nelson et al., 2016).
This sub-theme focuses on collaboration and networking dynamics among and around organizations that embody alternative forms. The increasing collective representation and promotion of alternative organizational forms calls for a closer examination of inter-organizational collaboration and meta-organizing for alternative organizations. Extant work has examined the capacity of meta-organizations such as federations and networks to theorize and experiment with alternatives (Gendron et al., 2009), build market positioning and counter the domination of capitalist competitors (Audebrand & Barros, 2018; Davies, 2009), connect with field-level actors to build legitimacy (Huybrechts & Haugh, 2018) and achieve institutional change (York et al., 2016). While some of the roles of collaboration and networking among alternative organizations may be similar to what has been described in the general literature on meta-organizations (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2004), other roles are likely to be shaped by the specific practices and missions of alternative organizational forms. Yet, there has been little research exploring such roles, nor the specific goals and obstacles involved in networking alternative organizations. Similarly, while the literature on inter-organizational collaboration may help to shed light on some features of collaborations among alternative organizations and with other actors such as governments, businesses and social movements, there is a need for more research examining the drivers, obstacles, specific features and challenges of such collaborations.
In this sub-theme, we are interested in exploring a set of questions emerging at the intersection of alternative organizational forms on one hand, and collaboration and networking on the other hand. Relevant questions include, but are not restricted to:
What are the drivers of collaboration among alternative organizations? What is the interplay between drivers related to the mission and drivers of a more economic or strategic nature?
What are the obstacles to collaboration among alternative organizations, for example competition dynamics or regulatory contexts? What are the challenges of building collaborations for distinct alternative organizations (e.g., co-operatives, social enterprises, non-profit organizations, community initiatives)?
How are collaborations and networks managed and governed when involving alternative organizations? What are the tensions and paradoxes, for example between centralization and horizontal collaboration, or between identity and inclusiveness?
What kind of internal capabilities and external factors could favour collaboration and networking among alternative organizational forms (e.g. at personal, organizational, inter-organizational and societal levels)?
How do meta-organizations represent and promote the alternative form of their members to the outer world and build their legitimacy? How do they manage the tension of appearing alternative while building legitimacy with established actors (for example industry associations or public authorities)?
How do alternative organizations engage in institutional work? To what extent is such work conducted with public authorities, social movements or businesses? What are the opportunities and challenges of collaborating with actors that rely on distinct values, goals or institutional logics?
How do alternative organization relate to the social movements that have led to their emergence? What are the opportunities and challenges of such collaborations? What have alternative organizations learned from them?
What theoretical lenses may help illuminate collaborative dynamics among and around alternative organizational forms? How does this domain challenge and enrich existing theories, for example on meta-organizations, inter-organizational collaboration, paradoxes and institutional theory?