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Title: How inter-organisational relationships (IORS) develop over time
Authors: Ross, Brian Peter
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis is an exploratory study of a project partnership between a group of Voluntary and Community Organisations (VCOs) and a Voluntary Agency that were commissioned by the Local Authority to deliver a combined service. The partnership is based on a consortium arrangement, an inter-organisational relationship (IOR) between locally driven, delivery-based service providers, and a non-delivery partner, a coordinator. Though their arrangement was only meant to last twelve months, relationships continued after the project ended. While there is an abundance of studies that have examined private and public sector partnerships and multi-agency arrangements, a review of literature established no general theory or framework through which to consider how VCOs collaborate in a project partnership over time. This study was therefore designed to explore how these organisations worked together to complete the project and what became of the partnership after their initial objective was accomplished. In addition to findings from an evaluation study that examined whether organisations achieved their targets and shared objectives, there were another two interview phases that further illustrated how organisations worked together. Data from seventeen in-depth interviews were collected and analysed until the point of data saturation. Other sources included non-participant observations, mainly from partnership meetings, a focus group, field notes, and secondary data. By triangulating this data, this thesis constructed a collective account of the partnership’s journey to complete the pilot project and identified several factors that influenced the partners’ IOR. The research process was iterative, unfolding and reflexive. A phenomenological approach using a qualitative methodology was employed to understand the case study. From the first phase of data collection and analysis, four main themes were identified that captured how these organisations worked together. This involved there being a strategy, participants, process, and an outcome. From the second and third phase of data collection and analysis, further sub-themes were identified within these categories. Being a project, the partnership was a temporary arrangement. Consequently, the consortium had a life-cycle, which is a sequence of phases organisations will come across to deliver their services (Turner, 2009; Weiss and Wysocki, 1992; Westland, 2006). Members experienced a beginning (formation stage), a middle (development and ii performance stage), and an end (termination stage). However, as shared meanings were organised into themes, the process captured five stages of development, which coincided with Wilson and Charlton’s (1997) five-stage model of partnership working, and Tuckman and Jensen’s (1977) group development framework. As data was being triangulated with other sources, the model was modified to account for long periods of relative stability that were punctuated by periods of change (Gersick, 1988, 1989), an overlap between stages, and a reformation period. How their inter-organisational arrangement developed became an emerging and cyclical process (Ring and Van de Ven, 1994). A further examination of findings identified five underlying themes that influenced the IOR of a partner; these involved (i) the orientation of the project and its management, (ii) the time allocated to forming, developing and nurturing relationships, (iii) the behaviour, interaction and interdependence of organisations or individuals with others in the partnership, (iv) learning and growth, and (v) sustainability, a continuance of relationships and renewed membership. These themes captured how individual, organisational and environmental factors affected collaborative development over the pilot project, and the challenges encountered when charity-based providers form IORs for the first time to deliver a combined service. While this thesis presents a phenomenological approach to understand how locally-driven service providers in the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) work together, it also provides a framework to support future studies of collaboration between VCOs in temporary project partnerships.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:Newcastle University Business School

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