Nonprofit-business partnership: the social construction of value

Wing, Kathryn Elizabeth (2018) Nonprofit-business partnership: the social construction of value. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The recent burgeoning of academic and practitioner interest in nonprofit-business partnership and other forms of cross-sector social partnership (CSSP) reflects their perceived importance as mechanisms for creating value, by addressing intractable social, economic and environmental problems (Austin & Seitanidi, 2012a; Le Ber & Branzei, 2010a; Porter & Kramer, 2011; Selsky & Parker, 2005). The literature identifies an emerging trend over the past few decades towards strategic nonprofit-business dyadic partnerships, whose stated aim is, at least in part, the creation of social value, alongside organizational value for the participating organizations (Seitanidi & Crane, 2009; Vock, Van Dolen & Kolk, 2013; Waddock, 1988).

This research reconceptualizes value as a socially constructed, discursively constituted concept. It tracks the evolution of a time-limited dyadic nonprofit-business partnership between a credit card company and a young people’s charity in the United Kingdom, in real time. The empirical work commenced at the very outset of the PhD, progressing in tandem with the exploration of relevant literatures. The initial research question was intentionally broad, with sub-questions emerging inductively from the data analysis. The overarching research question is: “How do partners involved in nonprofit-business partnership construct value through their discourse?”. This positions the thesis to investigate how partnership talk functions, which is identified as an under-researched aspect of nonprofit-business partnership and other forms of CSSP.

The particular perspective on discourse theory adopted for this thesis draws on the work of discursive psychologists, such as Potter and Wetherall (1987), but is also sensitized by post-structuralist ideas. It therefore recognizes the multiplicity of possible interpretations and questions conceptions of value which treat it as an objective concept, existing outside of discourse. It combines ethnographic techniques with discourse analysis, taking full advantage of the high level of pre-negotiated access to this case. This enables the detailed analysis of partnership talk to be integrated with an ethnographic sensitivity to context.

This research opens up the ‘black box’ of partnership talk to reveal the micro-level discursive practices through which the partners deploy their communicative skills to construct the value of the partnership. In this thesis, partnership talk is found to be characteristically both collaborative (as opposed to competitive) and asymmetrical (in terms of its structure). However, where the partners engage in joint planning activity and the funding relationship is not salient, the talk becomes more symmetrical, with both partners contributing to the dialogue on a more equal basis, thus more conducive to the co-creation of value.

The findings capture discursive practices involved in aligning for value, building value and affirming value in collaborative partnership talk. Where the partnership talk becomes misaligned, for example, where tensions or sensitivities arise, the partners employ various discursive practices to defend and repair the value of the partnership and to avoid overt conflict. A key contribution of this research is a multi-level Value Construction Model, which is grounded in the close analysis of partnership talk. This is not a positivistic or prescriptive model, but rather a descriptive and explanatory model, based on patterns discovered inductively in partnership talk data and recognising the diversity of cases and research settings and the complexity of multi-party partnership talk.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Chapple, Wendy A.
Caruana, Robert
Keywords: nonprofit-business partnership; cross-sector social partnership; construction of value; ethnography; discourse analysis
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 51001
Depositing User: Wing, Kathryn
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2018 04:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 18:46

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