Sub-theme 10: (SWG) Collaboration and Confrontation: Dynamic Interactions between Corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations

Frank de Bakker
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Frank den Hond
Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
Marie-France Turcotte
Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Call for Papers



As the neat separation between the political and the economic sphere has become blurred in the process of globalization, the national context of governance is eroding. State systems are sometimes claimed to fail in regulating the economy when it comes to dealing with transnational social and environmental problems, providing public goods, administering citizenship rights, or serving the public interest. At the same time, negative side effects of globalization and the severe contemporary global economic and financial crises demonstrate the limitations of the capitalist system and challenge the legitimacy and role of big corporations as the main protagonists of this system. Under these conditions, a global social movement that operates beyond the regular political institutions has emerged and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups, and private businesses step in to fill the void and respond to governance gaps and legitimacy challenges. EGOS Standing Working Group (SWG) 10 aims to provide a platform for scholars to discuss the changing dynamics between business and society.


Dynamic interactions

Interactions between business and a variety of organizations rooted in social movements and civil society are receiving more and more attention. Both types of organizations have gained significance in public policy and global governance. Many organizations in civil society, often referred to as NGOs or a variety of related terms such as civil society organizations, secondary stakeholders or activist groups, target not only public authorities but often pressure private firms with campaigns and boycotts so that these firms take responsibility for public concerns. In this sub-theme we opt for a broad conception of the term NGOs to include this variety of organizations. Today, many multinational business firms have started either proactively or reactively to regulate their activities or produce global public goods. The dynamic interactions between corporations and NGOs are central in this sub-theme.

While it is widely acknowledged that firms and NGOs can engage in more collaborative or more contentious relationships, we want to emphasize the dynamics between these relationships. Collaboration may turn into confrontation, and confrontation may turn into collaboration and oftentimes using a mixture of both can be strategic. This sub-theme aims at highlighting the dynamic nature of the interaction between firms and NGOs. Following the observations in a recent special issue of Organization Studies (de Bakker et al., 2013), we divide our guiding questions in two main themes: how do strategic interaction processes between firms and NGOs unfold and how can we explore the outcomes of such interactions?

Possible questions include, but are not limited to:


Interaction processes:

  • Looking at links between NGOs and firms, how is collaboration turned into confrontation (and vice versa)?
  • In which ways can firms and NGOs co-shape their interaction processes? What are possible limits of such interactions?
  • How can spaces for contestation between firms and civil society be organized or disorganized?
  • What are the roles of confrontation and conflict in the interaction between corporations and civil society? How do conflicts help or hinder interaction?
  • What is the role and significance of NGOs in these interaction processes?
  • What can be learned from the emerging forms of cooperation between business firms and NGOs (e.g. with respect to private-public-partnerships)?
  • How do NGOs influence each other in these interactions in different national settings?
  • What role can organization studies play in unraveling these interaction processes?


Interaction outcomes:

  • What are the implications of collaboration and confrontation for the legitimacy of firms and civil society actors?
  • How do collaboration and conflict, both with counterparts and with businesses, impact the functioning of NGOs?
  • How do collaboration and conflict mutually influence one another in these interactions?
  • How do tactical innovation and adaptation affect the outcomes of interaction?
  • What strategies of corporate counter-mobilization, repression and social control of protest are being used and how effective are they?
  • How can we distinguish between channeling, cooptation and collaboration?
  • How to determine how sustainable the outcomes of interactions are?
  • What are the outcomes when business firms use the conflictual tactics usually used by NGOs?
  • What role can organization studies play in unraveling these interaction outcomes?


We particularly invite contributions which take a critical perspective on the role of the firm in global society. In addition, we are interested in work that considers the emerging differences of firm-NGO interaction in developing economies. Participants in this sub-theme 10 should aim to develop strong theoretical and/or empirical insights that increase our understanding of the role of global business firms and their contribution to society.


Participants of this sub-theme are encouraged to submit their papers to the Special Issue "Collaboration an Confrontation. Dynamic Interactions between Corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations over CSR and Sustainability" of Organization & Environment

– see:


edited by the convenors of this sub-theme. Yet, submission of a paper to this EGOS sub-theme is not a precondition for submission to the Special Issue.



de Bakker, Frank G.A., Frank den Hond, Brayden King & Klaus Weber (2013): 'Social Movements, Civil Society and Corporations: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead.' Organization Studies, 34 (5–6), pp. 573–593.


Frank de Bakker is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Department of Organization Sciences, VU University (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). His research focuses on the intersection of institutional theory and social movement theory, with a growing interest in network studies, specifically concerning interactions between activist groups and firms. His work has appeared in the 'Academy of Management Review', 'Business and Society', 'Organization Studies' and several other outlets.
Frank den Hond is the Ehrnrooth Professor in Management and Organisation at Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland), and Editor of 'Organization Studies'. His research interests are at the intersection of business in society, institutional organization theory, and social movement studies.
Marie-France Turcotte is Professor of Strategy and Social Responsibility at the Ecole des Sciences de la Gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal (Montreal, Canada). Her research focuses on multi-stakeholder initiatives, corporate campaigns, shareholder activism and sustainability standards. She is Director of the French Office of the Network for Business Sustainability ( She has published in a variety of journals, including the 'Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences', 'Business and Society Review', the 'Journal of Business Ethics' and several other outlets.