Sub-theme 73: The Plurality of Meta-
organizations: Variations and Dynamics
of Collective Action among Organizations
SCORE & Stockholm University, Sweden
CNRS, LEST, Aix Marseille University, France
Hanken School of Economics, Finland
Call for Papers
Meta-organizations, formal organizations that are made of other organizations, are
increasingly being set up everywhere around the world. They deal with every sphere
and every aspect of contemporary society, from organizing cities, states, firms or
markets (Ahrne et al., 2016; Berkowitz & Souchaud, 2019; Corazza et al., 2019; Peixoto
& Temmes, 2019) and defending members’ interests (Rajwani et al., 2015; Spillman,
2017), to tackling grand challenges like climate change (Chaudhury et al., 2016) and
designing responsible value chains (Carmagnac & Carbone, 2018). They coordinate
activities across organizational borders, they form organizational identities and they
are active in influencing policy decisions of all sorts. Much of global governance takes
place through meta-organizations. These meta-organizations even in turn organize
themselves into an increasing number of meta-meta-organizations. Not only is the
pure number of meta-organization increasing, but their form is also varying a lot: they
are moving away from more traditional forms of similar organizations with similar
interest joining forces towards more multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral forms
(Berkowitz et al., 2017; Carmagnac & Carbone, 2018; Laurent et al., 2020). Meta-
organizations therefore constitute a salient and changing phenomenon in
The question of inclusion is an interesting one for meta-organizational research. The
question of inclusion (and exclusion) is intimately linked to the question of boundaries,
between meta-organizations and the outside, as well as within the meta-organization
(Berkowitz & Bor, 2018). While some may promote openness in membership, others
may very much restrict who can belong (Saz-Carranza & Ospina, 2010). And also, even
if the organization is open in terms of membership, it is not self-evident all members
will be able to influence or partake in decisions (Saz-Carranza & Ospina, 2010). Not
only are meta-organizations more or less inclusive towards members and
stakeholders, but some meta-organizations are also specifically dedicated to tackling
inclusion issues, like gender equality at the Women empowerment Principles
(Berkowitz et al., 2017).
Following up on two very successful events in 2019, the MMP workshop in Toulouse
and the the sub-theme at the 35th EGOS Colloquium 2019 in Edinburgh, this sub-theme
aims to further the theory development in the area of meta-organization. In this sub-
theme, we aim to continue developing meta-organization theory and understanding.
We welcome both theoretical and empirical papers. We also welcome methodological
papers that investigate the specificities of meta-organizational research. For
inspiration, we provide examples of key topics below. Papers on other topics are also
welcome as long as they explicitly contribute to the theorization of meta-organization
per se, rather than inter-organizational phenomena in general.
Meta-organizations and inclusion: What drives inclusion or exclusion in and
around meta-organizations? Under which conditions and organizational forms
can meta-organizations contribute to a more inclusive society?
Processes of meta-organizing. What are the challenges of taking decisions and
organizing actors in a meta-level system? Is meta-organizing specific to strictly
bounded meta-organizations or is meta-organizing happening outside of
formal meta-organization and where do we put the limit of the concept?
Dynamics of power in meta-organizations. What are the sources of power
meta-organizations draw on? How can we differentiate weak and strong meta-
organizations? Why do some meta-organizations grow or become salient for
their members and their environments while others remain weak and
insignificant? What are the sources for and forms for power struggle between
meta-organizations and their members?
The dark side of meta-organization. Under which conditions can meta-
organizations become dormant and useless? Irresponsible? How is
accountability bounded in meta-organizations and what are the mechanisms
that allow member-organizations or meta-organizations to escape
accountability and responsibility for their decisions?
Ahrne, G., Brunsson, N., & Kerwer, D. (2016): “The paradox of organizing states:
A meta-organization perspective on international organizations.”
International Organizations Studies
, 7 (1), 5–24.
Berkowitz, H., & Bor, S. (2018): “Why meta-organizations matter: A response to
Lawton et al. and Spillman.”
Journal of Management Inquiry
, 27 (2), 204–211.
Berkowitz, H., Bucheli, M., & Dumez, H. (2017): “Collective CSR strategy and the
role of meta-organizations: A case study of the oil and gas industry.”
, 143 (4), 753–769.
Berkowitz, H., & Souchaud, A. (2019): “(Self-)regulation in the sharing economy:
Governing through partial meta-organizing.”
Journal of Business Ethics
, 159 (4),
Carmagnac, L., & Carbone, V. (2018): “Making supply networks more
sustainable ‘together’: The role of meta-organisations.”
Supply Chain Forum: An
, 20 (1), 56–67.
Chaudhury, A.S., Ventresca, M.J., Thornton, T.F., Helfgott, A., Sova, C., et al.
(2016): “Emerging meta-organisations and adaptation to global climate change:
Evidence from implementing adaptation in Nepal, Pakistan and Ghana.”
, 38, 243–257.
Corazza, L., Cisi, M., & Dumay, J. (2019): “Formal networks: The influence of
social learning in meta-organisations from commons protection to commons
Knowledge Management Research & Practice
Laurent, A., Garaudel, P., Schmidt, G., & Eynaud, P. (2020): “Civil society meta-
organizations and legitimating processes: The case of the addiction field in
VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit
31 (1), 19–38.
Peixoto, I., & Temmes, A. (2019): “Market organizing in the European Union’s
biofuels market: Organizing for favouring, acceptability, and future
Journal of Cleaner Production,
Rajwani, T., Lawton, T.C., & Phillips, N. (2015): “The ‘Voice of Industry’: Why
management researchers should pay more attention to trade
, 13 (3), 224–232.
Saz-Carranza, A., & Ospina, S.M. (2010): “The behavioral dimension of governing
interorganizational goal-directed networks – Managing the unity-diversity
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
, 21 (2), 327–365.
Spillman, L. (2018): “Meta-organization matters.”
Journal of Management
, 27 (1), 16–20.
Göran Ahrne is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology, Stockholm
University, Sweden, and also affiliated with Stockholm Centre for Organizational
Research (SCORE). Göran’s main research interest is focused on connections between
social theory and organization theory, the role of meta-organizations in globalisation
and the topic of social change and organizational change.
Héloïse Berkowitz is a permanent researcher at CNRS (LEST, Aix Marseille University),
France. Her research currently deals with industry transitions to sustainability, focusing
on sectorial governance and meta-organizations, in several empirical settings from
natural resources to collaborative economy or ocean sustainability.
Sanne Bor is a post-doctoral researcher at Hanken School of Economics, Finland, in the
Collaborative Remedies (CORE) project, as well as researcher at LUT University in the
Package Heroes (PaHe) project. In her research for CORE, Sanne looks at collaboration
in solving environmental conflicts, drawing on concepts of value co-creation, learning
and collaborative capacity; in her research for PaHe, she looks at the transition in food
packaging to reduce, recycle and replace plastics, and particularly at the role of meta-
organizations within this transition.