AuthorKozuch, Barbara
  1. Introduction

    Inter-organizational collaboration is defined as 'any joint activity by two or more agencies working together that is intended to increase public value by their working together rather than separately' (Bardach apud O'Leary and Vij, 2012, p. 508). It constitutes benefits for all parties and well-defined relationships between two or more organizations aiming to attain common goals by these organizations (Mattessich et al., 2001; Payan, 2007; Phillips et al., 2000). In essence, it is open-ended in its character, results from evolution of inter-organizational relations, and becomes widely applicable in the private, public as well as non-governmental sectors. Growing significance of inter-organizational collaboration in operations of enterprises and institutions mostly results from uncertainty of the environment, quest for competitive or cooperative advantage, and from the fact that today they are unlikely to act on their own.

    In the public sector inter-organizational collaboration has received unfaltering interest for two decades, resulting from the growing complexity of social problems (Marlin et al., 2009). Intensified studies carried out in this field suggest that it enables meeting social needs in an easier and more effective manner than through individual actions (Leung, 2013). However, though the practice of collaboration between organizations is widely applied, the rationale behind its implementation is commonly obvious, and it is not a new phenomenon, it is extremely difficult (Kaiser, 2011; Fedorowicz et al., 2007). Legal requirements or collaboration agreements fail to constitute sufficient conditions to ensure effective inter-organizational collaboration. After all, its process is governed by numerous factors having attributes concerned with both internal as well as external determinants which encompass characteristics of collaborating organizations. Nonetheless, there is little systematic evidence to document the conditions of effective inter-organizational collaboration (Daley, 2009, p. 477). Therefore, the objective of this paper is to identify factors contributing to effective inter-organizational collaboration, to examine the impact of these factors on actions undertaken in public management and to systematize them. The studies were completed as part of the research project entitled 'Coordination, communication and trust as a factors driving effective inter-organizational collaboration in the system of public safety management', financed by the funds of the National Science Centre allocated on the basis on the decision no. DEC-2012/07/D/HS4/00537.

  2. Theoretical background

    Collaboration is defined as 'a durable relationship that brings previously separate organizations into a new structure with commitment to a commonly defined mission, structure, or planning effort' (Perrault et al., 2011, p. 283). Through collaboration organizations can deliver services in a more effective way (Leung, 2013). However 'collaborative advantage will be achieved when something unusually creative is produced'(Huxham apud O'Leary and Vij, 2012, p. 510).

    The analysis of collaboration as a management tool (Vangen and Huxham, 2010, pp. 181-182) shows that it yields benefits irrespective of its scope, forms and intensity, and whether it is relevant to informal relations among organizations or tightly-knit correlations within a partnership collaboration, though these determinants do affect the character and scale of the benefits and their importance in meeting goals of collaborating organizations (Kozuch and Dobrowolski, 2014, p. 89).

    For some researchers, inter-organizational collaboration is solely a predilection of being a good partner, and for others a kind of invisible product of collaboration such as results from sharing knowledge and mutual understanding (Huxham, 1996, pp. 15-16; Lank, 2006, pp. 7-9; Huxham and Hibbert, 2008). Others view collaborative advantage as a complex category, agreeing with its fundamental concept which includes benefits produced by collaboration, without which were unlikely to be achieved. However, building collaborative advantage is an element of modern management in the sphere of widely understood public services. The successful collaboration can be recognized from five perspectives (Vangen and Huxham, 2010):

  3. substantive outcomes: better use of public funds, improvements in public service provision, raised citizen awareness;

  4. highly productive processes of collaboration as measure of organizational success;

  5. emergent milestones: starting to take account of each other's interests, holding of jointly organized events; achieving major final targets;

  6. collaboration recognition: by those not involved and valued in its own right; and

  7. personal and organizational pride: signifying collaborative success through personal fulfilment and specific content of the organizational culture.

    All these five perspectives convey that managing collaborations is a complex endeavor structured around themes like common aims, working processes, organizational communication, accountability and organizational trust. The reference literature points out that shortages or deficiencies in these respects may be seen as the determinants for collaboration (Arya and Lin, 2007; Hansen and Nohria, 2004; Hardy et al., 2003; Powell et al., 1996).

    Distinctions between management in the public sector and the private sector have profound implications for shaping inter-organizational collaboration. Compared to the private sector, public organizations management are marked by: higher authoritarianism, lesser autonomy of operations and decision-making, larger openness to impacts from the environment, enhanced formalization of functioning, broader array of tasks, and reduced or no pressure from competitors (Kearney et al., 2009; Jamali, 2004; Boyne, 2002). For enterprises, competitiveness is a primary mechanism guiding their operations and collaboration is embraced when it complements and even boosts competitiveness of business organizations, which is the prerequisite to sustain them on the market and generate gains. Whereas for relationships of entities in the public and non-governmental sectors it is typical to collaborate to bolster opportunities for providing public services (McGuire, 2006; Sienkiewicz-Malyjurek, 2012). Furthermore, organizational and legal requirements oblige public organizations to collaborate both within the sector and beyond it.

    Inter-organizational collaboration is diversified in its scope, structure, form and targets to be pursued. In each case, it is different, it proceeds distinctly and specifically for each situation depending on current internal and external determinants. Moreover, the understanding and the practical application of principles guiding inter-organizational collaboration hinge on their interpretation, and thus they may considerably differ among organizations. Basically, it may be illustrated by the differences in the use of collaboration principles by local government units and military, where distinctions may arise from diverse responsibilities, legacy, authority structure, organizational frameworks and autonomy among the components (Kaiser, 2011, p. 5). In addition, the identification of conditions for inter-organizational collaboration itself poses a challenge, because in each case unique considerations and elements are required (Perrault et al., 2011, p. 283). Even well-formulated collaboration principles may not bring anticipated outcomes (Sienkiewicz-Malyjurek, 2014). Possibilities and effects of collaboration may be constrained by, for instance, opportunism resulting from asymmetrical structure of dependencies among organizations, supervision systems diminishing capabilities for effective management of interpersonal relationships or by increased centralized coordination shrinking flexibility of relationships and their innovativeness (Young and Denize, 2008, p. 47). Therefore, collaboration can be less than advantageous (McGuire, 2006, p. 40).

    Forging appropriate relations within inter-organizational collaboration is a challenging process which requires continuous supervision and cultivation. This process is modelled by numerous elements and determinants, both at the phase when joint actions are orchestrated as well as when they are executed. Therefore, it is important to recognize the factors at the heart of efficiency of inter-organizational collaboration and to systemize them, as well as to analyze their implications for ventures jointly performed.

  8. Methodology

    Our main research objective was to identify what factors influence inter-organizational collaboration and then analyze the intensity of this influence.

    The research presented in this paper drew on the following research methods: systematic literature review (SLR) and hermeneutic process based on a focus group with scholars. SLR was carried out in November 2014 based in the PRISMA Group methodology (Moher et al., 2009). The reasons behind the choice of the method was that it allows for eliminating deficiencies of traditional narrative literature reviews which lack scientific rigor and include bias (Tranfield et al., 2003; Nightingale, 2009; Webster and Watson, 2002). The research used databases Scopus and Web of Science. Search covered all possible configurations among combinations of word selecting on the base of inter-organizational collaboration properties, provided in the first column and those in the second column in Table 1. A symbol '*' was used at the end of keywords in order to extend the range and quantity of publications identified. The search was limited to English-language papers in scientific magazines and conference publications. Additionally, the research has embraced management, social and administration sciences.

    The process of regular literature review covered four primary phases, i.e. identification, screening, eligibility and inclusion (Figure 1).

    Having identified the...

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