A communicative approach towards an understanding of multi-stakeholder cross-sector collaboration as an issue field: perspectives from sustainable seafood supply chain initiatives in an emerging market

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH SUMMARY : The complexities of social and environmental issues are shared by many at every level of society, by governments, communities, business and individuals. These issues are often described as systemic problems (Waddock, 2013) or as systems of problems in a “turbulent field” (Trist, 1983; Emery & Trist, 1965), or as wicked problems (Dentoni, Bitzer & Pascucci, 2016; Waddock, Meszoely, Waddell & Dentoni, 2015). One particular approach that is adopted to engage with these systemic challenges is cross-sector collaboration (Van Tulder, Seitanidi, Crane & Brammer, 2016; Crane & Seitanidi, 2014; Glasbergen, 2007; Bryson, Crosby & Stone, 2006). It is a collective approach to addressing issues that are beyond the ability of any one organization to solve acting alone (Huxham & Vangen, 2000a; Wood & Gray, 1991). For business, efforts to address sustainability challenges have been directed towards establishing the business case (Austin & Seitanidi, 2012a) in order to determine the benefits or value derived from engaging in sustainability and to answer the question: why collaborate? The question of how to collaborate to create change at a systemic level has not been fully explored in the literature (Senge, Lichtenstein, Kaeufer, Bradbury & Carroll, 2007). The research opportunity here is to develop a greater understanding of how organizations from different sectors engage with multiple stakeholders so that the collaborative interactions and relationships create value and mutual benefits for all stakeholders and for the sustainability issue; and how continuity of the value creation process is sustained and developed. The study examined the experience of those individuals and organizations that are already achieving some success in working collaboratively to address sustainability issues. The setting for the research was multi-stakeholder cross-sector collaboration (MsCsC) directed towards sustainable seafood. MsCsC is conceived as an issue field, which is defined as “an organizational field that forms around a central issue” (Hoffman, 1999). This differs from the dominant focus in the literature where there is a partnership entity or organization. Applying a communicative theoretical lens, an adapted interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to conduct the research analysis and present a conceptual framework of value creation in MsCsC. The research contribution is a refinement of a pre-existing theoretical approach to value creation, where cross-sector partnership is conceived as a separate organizational entity. The research outcome is a new framework of value creation that has been adapted and extended to the context of MsCsC as an issue field. The research shows that there is a key difference in the process of value creation in these two contexts. The difference relates to a specific component of the framework of value creation, which is collective identity. In the case of MsCsC, there is no separate partnership entity and therefore no collective identity. As an alternative, the concept of identification applies, in which stakeholders identify with the narrative of the sustainability issue at a general level. They become stakeholders in the sustainability issue and responsible collectively for the social construction of the narrative of the sustainability issue. At a more particular level, those stakeholders who commit to working together for the benefit of the sustainability issue, then interact in conversations to negotiate specific areas where their respective goals and objectives intersect. It is negotiation, as conversational interactions among the stakeholders that establishes the direction to be taken and drives action so that the goals and objectives are a consequence of a shared understanding of the issue. At these areas of intersection or interdependency, collaborative activities offer the potential for mutual benefit and the capacity to create value for the sustainability issue. Other extensions to the framework include recognizing multiple agencies, such as nonhuman and textual agents; adding emotional elements to build and invest in relationships; and articulating the impact of the collaborative activities for a wider constituency beyond the stakeholders.
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Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.
Cooperation, UCTD, Issues management, Sustainability, Business logistics