Sub-theme 28: Unsettling Boundaries: Practices of Inter-organizational Collaboration

Kristina Lauche
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Hans Berends
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Paul R. Carlile
School of Management, Boston University, USA

Call for Papers

Changes in the global landscape require a reshaping of organizational practices to tackle problems that no single organization can address. Accomplishing innovation across domains and geographical distance, providing healthcare for an aging population or finding sustainable forms of development and value creation requires significant inter-organizational collaboration. Such collaborative activities involve the integration of practices across a variety of boundaries (Carlile, 2002), without recourse to traditional means of organizing such as hierarchy, routines, common knowledge, or organizational culture. Thus, inter-organizational collaboration demands rethinking our concepts of organizing and re-imagining it across boundaries of organizations. In this sub-theme, we aim to open the black box of inter-organizational collaboration and investigate the cross-boundary practices of how collaboration is initiated, maintained, negotiated, and transformed.

While alliance research has so far largely focused on structural features, antecedents and consequences of inter-organizational collaboration, we suggest building upon the 'turn to practice' in organization studies (Miettinen et al., 2009). Practice studies have become an established stream of research in the EGOS community. While mostly grounded within single organizations, recently more studies have emerged that focus on practices and processes of inter-organizational collaboration (e.g., Berends et al., 2011; Levina & Vaast, 2005; Sydow et al., 2012).

We aim to further open the black box of inter-organizational collaboration and investigate the cross-boundary practices of how collaboration is initiated, maintained, negotiated, and transformed. These settings are socially and technically complex and the boundaries generate novel sources of difference and dependences that must be understood before the challenge of cross-boundary integration can be addressed (Carlile, 2002). Actors face competing challenges in negotiating between institutional demands of their parent organisation and the joint project (Agterberg et al., 2010). There is no clear division of labour or shared means of addressing these boundaries, requiring actors to negotiate what it is that they are doing within and across practices. This proves more challenging in the case of temporary and highly dynamic collaborations.

We invite both theoretical and empirical papers from different disciplinary backgrounds as long as they address actual processes and practices. We encourage process research approaches, as these are particularly appropriate for investigating the dynamics of practices and practicing within and between organizations.

Questions and themes that may be addressed in this sub-theme include, but are not limited to:

  • How are inter-organizational practices initiated, maintained, negotiated and transformed over time?
  • What role do artefacts play in inter-organizational practices?
  • How do temporal orientations and temporal structures affect collaboration across boundaries?
  • How do we conceptualize boundaries under such complex and multi-layered conditions?
  • How does the relational context (e.g., power, dependency and trust between partners) affect practices of inter-organizational collaboration?
  • How do intra-organizational practices and inter-organizational practices interact?
  • How do organizations learn to collaborate across inter-organizational boundaries and evolve that capability over time?



Agterberg, Marlous, Bart Van Den Hooff, Marleen Huysman & Maura Soekijad (2010): 'Keeping the Wheels Turning: The Dynamics of Managing Networks of Practice.' Journal of Management Studies, 47 (1), pp. 85–108.
Berends, Hans, Elco van Burg & Eric M. van Raaij (2011): 'Contacts and Contracts: Cross-Level Network Dynamics in the Development of an Aircraft Material.' Organization Science, 22 (4), pp. 940–960.
Carlile, Paul R. (2002): 'A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New product Development.' Organization Science, 13, pp. 442–455.
Levina, Natalia & Emmanuelle Vaast (2005): 'The Emergence of Boundary Spanning Competence in Practice: Implications for Implementation and Use of Information Systems.' MIS Quarterly, 29 (2), pp. 335–363.
Miettinen, Reijo, Dalvir Samra-Fredericks & Dvora Yanow (2009: 'Re-Turn to Practice: An Introductory Essay.' Organization Studies, 30 (12), pp. 1309–1327.
Sydow, Jörg, Arnold Windeler, Cornelius Schubert & Guido Möllering (2012): 'Organizing R&D Consortia for Path Creation and Extension: The Case of Semiconductor Manufacturing Technologies.' Organization Studies, 33 (7), pp. 907–936.


Kristina Lauche is the Chair of Organizational Development and Design at Radboud University Nijmegen and Professor of Organisation Studies of Innovation at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. Her research addresses coordination practices across boundaries, technology appropriation, and innovating as upward influencing processes by which innovators shape organizational strategy. She draws on practice approaches to study how materiality and social interactions mediate agency in organizations.
Hans Berends is Associate Professor in the Knowledge, Information and Networks research group at VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His current research interests concern process dynamics of innovation, inter-organizational collaboration, and organizational learning. His work has been published in leading journals including 'Organization Science', 'Organization Studies', 'Human Relation' and 'JPIM'.
Paul R. Carlile is Associate Professor of Management and Information Systems at Boston University, USA. His work focuses on how the boundaries between different types of knowledge can be managed to more effectively drive collaboration, innovation and change. He has published in journal such as 'Organization Science', 'Management Science' and 'ASQ'.