[We’re pleased to welcome author Héloïse Berkowitz of the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris and Sanne Bor of the Hanken School of Economics. Berkowitz and Bor recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Why Meta-organizations Matter: a Response to Lawton et al. and Spillman,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Berkowitz and Bor reflect on their research:]
What are meta-organizations?
A meta-organization is an association of organizations. Meta-organizations are an important phenomenon of collective action among organizations. The International Football Club Association FIFA is an example of a meta-organization, but there are many more out there. Star Alliance is another one. The United Nations also is a meta-organization. Inside or across sectors and industries, thousands of trade associations contribute to collective action at the level of organizations. Multi-stakeholder groups, that gather not only businesses, but also NGOs and governments or universities, also constitute a growing form of meta-organizations.
What motivated you to write this article?
We both recently had completed our PhDs on meta-organizations (at Ecole polytechnique, France and Hanken School of Economics, Finland), a setting not commonly studied at our departments and both were searching for connections which would share our interest in developing meta-organization theory. We had not ever really met before, but when we took our breakfast in Stockholm during a workshop organized by the SCORE (Stockholm Centre for Organizational REsearch), we easily found common ground for a scientific dialogue. We agreed right away that there was a need not only to investigate meta-organizations further, but also to give visibility to this concept – already 12-year-old. Discussing during the workshop and further on when we both moved back to our respective institutions, we started drafting a common research project.
A little later, while we were drafting our common research project, two great papers on the topic of meta-organization appeared online in the Journal of Management Inquiry. The first was Lawton, Rajwani and Minto (2017), the second was Spillman (2017). They precisely called for more research on the topic. We were so excited! Their focus was on an approach that can be traced back to a paper published in the Strategic Management Journal (Gulati, Puranam and Tushman, 2012), which slightly differs from our approach, which builds on Ahrne and Brunsson’s work (2005, 2008). We instantly decided to suggest writing a paper in which we would respond to these two papers with the aim to bridge and link research on meta-organizations across the approaches. In addition, we wanted to explain the theorizing developments by the ‘European School’ of meta-organization. This resulted in our contribution to the debate.
What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
Our paper suggests a research agenda for meta-organization studies, a good start for any new scholar and incoming researchers wishing to contribute to this growing body of knowledge. In particular, there is a dire need for empirical work, testing the theoretical bases that are emerging from the multiple ongoing research projects across continents synthesized in our paper.
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