Sub-theme 14: (SWG) Emergence and Agency in Organizational Networks

Terry L. Amburgey
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Canada
Barak S. Aharonson
Recanati Graduate School of Business, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Jörg Raab
Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Call for Papers


Organizational networks have become an increasingly central topic in organization theory in recent years. In some cases, the networks of interest are inter-organizational networks created for specific purposes. Just as organizations themselves can be constructed as goal-seeking, purposive systems such as "whole networks" or "engineered networks" can be constructed with specific purposes in mind. For example, a network of health care organizations developed for the purpose of transferring patients from one organization to another to integrate specialized treatments is a purposive network. In other cases, the networks of interest are inter-organizational networks that emerge from dyadic interactions between organizations. Although the generation of dyadic ties may be purposive on the part of the members of the dyad, the broader network that results from dyadic ties (and its attributes) are emergent. For example, a network of organizations that results from dyadic R&D alliances among the organizations is an emergent network. The tension between agency and emergence has a long standing tradition in sociology. This tension is reflected in the conference theme as well. The focus of this sub-theme is on emergence, agency, and their interaction within the context of organizational networks.

We especially encourage the submission of papers that fall into three general areas:

  • studies that shed more light on the differences and commonalities in the genesis and evolution of emergent networks and purposive whole networks;
  • studies that examine unanticipated consequences of networks, consequences not intended by the members of dyads or the designers of whole networks;
  • studies that examine agency within emergent networks and emergent properties within purposive networks.

Research on the purposive and emergent aspects of organizational networks is also well suited to the general theme of the Colloquium: Design!? The general call for sub-theme proposals points out that design has typically been associated with structures, roles and relationships, and more recently, with routines, practices and discourses. We therefore also welcome submissions concerned with:

  • the effects of structure, roles, and relationships within organizational networks on the outcomes of the networks, either intended or unanticipated;
  • the effects of routines, practices, and discourses within organizational networks on the outcomes of the networks, either intended or unanticipated;
  • differences between purposive and emergent networks in structures, routines, and practices;
  • the antecedents that might explain routines, practices and discourses in organizational networks.


We especially welcome empirical papers but are also open for innovative conceptual contributions.


Terry L. Amburgey 
Barak S. Aharonson 
Jörg Raab