Sub-theme 38: Governing for the Good Life: Secrecy, Transparency, and Accountability in Organizations, Networks, and Society ---> MERGED with sub-theme 71

Lars Thøger Christensen
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Elisabeth F. Müller
Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany
Jörg Raab
Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

There is an increase in the prevalence of organizations working together in order to achieve outcomes none of the organizations can achieve on their own (Huxham & Vangen, 2005, Provan & Kenis, 2008). At the same time, challenges to overall well-being – environmental degradation, poverty, education for all, mobility, chronic health issues – remain persistent because they comprise interconnected problems that cross boundaries between industrial, non-profit and governmental sectors. Such wicked problems or grand challenges have to be tackled through the collaborative efforts of organizations (Head, 2008, Dentoni et al., 2018, Gray & Purdy, 2018). But organizations also collaborate to achieve collective outputs they cannot achieve on their own to further their own missions like developing and delivering (new) services and products, combining their sales efforts or jointly creating ecosystems that provide customers with complementary goods and services (Lavie, 2006; Shipilov & Gawer, 2020). Therefore, through these collaborative efforts they overcome the limitations of their own capacities, resources, and knowledge. They hereby manifest themselves as purpose-driven institutions and the ‘good life’ is hoped to emerge in such organizational forms as a collective construct (see Call for the EGOS Colloquium theme 2023).
By participating in these collaborative arrangements, organizations still need and want to accomplish their core missions despite increasing interdependencies and contributing to solving a collective problem or achieving a collective output. By operating through interorganizational arrangements they lose part of their sovereignty and collaborating with other organizations can create dependencies and risks that can be hard to manage (Considine, 2002). Therefore, if we want to enable organizations to tackle collective problems and achieve collective outcomes and facilitate them in fulfilling their missions in a networked society, they must get the leeway to do so on the one hand, but we need to establish accountability and monitor and manage the risks on the organizational as well as on the collaboration level on other hand.
Classical hierarchical governance and accountability concepts are thus challenged in this context and the question is what other governance and accountability concepts and arrangements are possible, in order to support the effectiveness of collaborative organizational forms (Ehren & Perryman, 2018; Sabel & Zeitlin, 2012). For example, existing accountability systems often only hold the single organization accountable for their individual performance and as such might even function counterproductive in producing value at the collective level of the collaboration. However, not monitoring the risks of such activities could also endanger the functioning or even the financial sustainability of the organizations but also the functioning and effectiveness of the collaboration as a whole. In addition, the question arises who is morally but also legally responsible and accountable when things go wrong in a collaborative endeavor and how we can avoid accountability getting lost in the diffusion or even the evaporation of different responsibilities (Willems & van Dooren, 2011)?
In this sub-theme, we therefore focus on collaborative organizational forms that consist of three or more organizations, that attempt to achieve an outcome that none of them could do individually. We aim at discussing the types of collaborative arrangements, their governance and accountability models from theoretical and empirical viewpoints. Submissions might address but do not have to be limited to the following questions:
  • What network governance modes do we see in practice and how (in combination with different factors) do they influence effectiveness and accountability?

  • How can transparency and accountability be conceptualized and analyzed in collaborative settings?

  • What are the characteristics and effects of existing accountability arrangements in collaborative settings?

  • How are collaborative settings implemented in product and service ecosystems? How are they implemented in hybrid environments?

  • How is, can and should monitoring and supervision be organized in collaborative settings both on the organizational and the collaboration level?

  • What are the effects of collaborative arrangements becoming separate legal entities for their accountability, supervision, legitimacy, and functioning?

  • What can be learnt from collaborative arrangements in the private sector for public or cross-sector cases and vice versa (with regard to governance, accountability and supervision)?

  • How do external evaluation, accreditation and monitoring agencies assess the accountability and monitoring of collaborative organizational arrangements?

We welcome empirical as well as conceptual papers that focus on the organizational level or the level of the collaboration or explore mutual influences. Empirical settings can be in the private, non-profit or public sector or cover cross-sector collaborations.


  • Considine, M. (2002): “The end of the line? Accountable governance in the age of networks, partnerships, and joined‐up services.” Governance, 15 (1), 21–40.
  • Dentoni, D., Bitzer, V., & Schouten, G. (2018): “Harnessing wicked problems in multi-stakeholder partnerships.” Journal of Business Ethics, 150 (2), 333–356.
  • Ehren, M., & Perryman, J. (2018): “Accountability of school networks: Who is accountable to whom and for what?” Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 46 (6) 942–959.
  • Gray, B., & Purdy, J. (2018): Collaborating for Our Future: Multistakeholder Partnerships for Solving Complex Problems. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Head, B.W. (2008). “Wicked Problems in Public Policy.” Public Policy, 3 (2), 101–118.
  • Huxham, C., & Vangen, S. (2005): Managing to Collaborate. The Theory and Practice of Collaborative Advantages. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  • Lavie, D. (2006): “The competitive advantage of interconnected firms: An extension of the resource-based view.” Academy of Management Review, 31 (3), 638–658.
  • Provan, K.G., & Kenis, P. (2008): “Modes of network governance: Structure, management, and effectiveness.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18 (2): 229–252.
  • Sabel, C.F., & Zeitlin, J. (2012): “Experimentalist governance.” In: D. Levi-Faur (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of Governance, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 169–184.
  • Shipilov, A., & Gawer, A. (2020): “Integrating research on interorganizational networks and ecosystems.” Academy of Management Annals, 14 (1), 92–121.
  • Willems, T., & Van Dooren, W. (2011): “Lost in Diffusion? How Collaborative Arrangements Lead to an Accountability Paradox.” International Review of Administrative Sciences, 77 (3), 505‒530.
Lars Thøger Christensen is Professor of Communication and Organization at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His research interests include issues of organizational identity, voice, CSR, transparency and accountability. Lars approaches these issues through a communication lens focused on how organizations talk themselves into new realities. In addition to six books and contributions to several edited volumes, his research appears in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Journal of Business Research’, ‘Organization’, and elsewhere.
Elisabeth F. Müller is Professor of Strategic Management at the Bundeswehr University Munich, Germany. Her research focuses on questions related to cooperative strategies. Current research topics include the governance of (regional) inter-firm networks, the organization of inter-firm collaboration in value networks, as well as the socio-psychological foundations of inter-firm networks.
Jörg Raab is Associate Professor of Policy and Organization at the Department of Organization Studies, Tilburg University, The Netherlands. He has extensive experience in social science research in the field of (temporary) organizations, inter- and intra-organizational relationships and networks. Jörg is currently involved in research projects on the governance and effectiveness of purpose-oriented networks, organizational responses to infectious disease threats, and social enterprises as new organizational forms.