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Title:Exploring stakeholder participation in nonprofit collaboration
Author(s):Cooper, Katherine
Director of Research:Shumate, Michelle D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Shumate, Michelle D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Poole, Marshall S.; Lammers, John C.; Schwandt, Thomas A.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Nonprofit organizations
interorganizational collaboration
stakeholder participation
Abstract:In the face of large-scale societal or “wicked” problems, organizations are encouraged to engage in network approaches to achieve impacts at a systems level. Collective impact initiatives present numerous challenges in the coordination of resources and activities across organizations and sectors, not least of which is accounting for diverse stakeholder perspectives. Although nonprofit collaborative networks convened for the purpose of combating a social problem may tout the idea of stakeholder participation, little is known about how diverse stakeholders engage in the network. Stakeholder theory provides the grounding for this research. Although this framework is popular in management and in organizational studies, a lack of empirical work, an overemphasis on singular corporations as focal organizations, and an overreliance on internal stakeholder perspectives have stalled theoretical development. A nonprofit collaborative network convened to tackle a social problem provides a unique setting for stakeholder theory, as well as a diverse population of stakeholders typically ignored in organizational research. This study explores stakeholder participation in “Community Reach,” a large, interorganizational network comprised of economic, educational, civic, and nonprofit institutions for the purposes of improving educational outcomes across a 10-county region in the Midwest. This mixed-method development design consisting of interviews and surveys reveals stakeholder relationships within Community Reach, the stakes represented in the network, and participation in Community Reach, as well as benefits, barriers, and outcomes of stakeholder participation. The research suggests several implications for collaborative networks as well as for stakeholder theory. Findings reveal the reproduction of organizational problems across a network level, the realities of multi-organizational collaboration in response to a “wicked” problem, the reduced role of traditional nonprofit organizations in network efforts, and the communicative impacts of stakeholder participation in a collaborative network. In addition, these findings suggest several future directions for stakeholder theory, including the emphasis of stakeholder engagement over stakeholder management, a greater consideration of stakeholder power structures within and across collaboration, and the application of stakeholder theory to a problem domain rather than a focal organization. A new model for stakeholder participation in response to a wicked problem draws from the findings of this research and suggests further directions for stakeholder research.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Katherine Cooper
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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