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Working Together: Exploring the Factors that Influence Interorganizational Cooperation

Wukich, R. Clayton (2011) Working Together: Exploring the Factors that Influence Interorganizational Cooperation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Administrative and policy failures increasingly occur because of the inability of organizations to facilitate collective action in the absence of a central, hierarchical authority. I explore how organizations achieve (or fail to achieve) voluntary, self-organizing collective action that is not a direct result of external control, presenting a polycentric system of governance within a set of public, nonprofit, and for-profit agencies operating in the policy domain of emergency management. Using a complex adaptive systems framework (Axelrod and Cohen 1999), I identify the patterns of variation, interaction, and the choices made among agencies that determine whether organizations work together. I develop a model of an integrated, interdependent system of emergency management facilitated by a knowledge commons, as opposed to the established sequential cycle of disaster response. The research problem addressed, collective action without hierarchy, is fundamentally an issue of decision making. The ability of decision makers to recognize key situations in their environments and develop strategies for action, i.e. cognition, is critical. Analysis of network data and semi-structured interviews finds that urgent need, proximity, and professional capital, a concept developed in this dissertation, promote and sustain cooperation. I show how these factors increase the capacity of heterogeneous networks to accomplish shared goals. Even if the conditions of urgent need and proximity are satisfied, situations exist where agencies fail to cooperate. Key standards of professional performance—appearance, levels of staffing, past performance, response time, and the quality of equipment—influence the decisions of emergency managers to work together. I present the concept of professional capital to describe how these recognized standards of professional performance demonstrate competence and justify the decisions of managers to interact. Professional capital transcends jurisdictional and disciplinary boundaries, influencing the confidence of decision makers and shaping judgments based on expectations of performance. This concept adds a missing component to social capital theory, which currently focuses on the roles of pre-established trust and norms of reciprocity in promoting collective action.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wukich, R.
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairComfort, Louise K.lkc@pitt.eduLKC
Committee MemberMiller, David Y.dymiller@pitt.eduDYMILLER
Committee MemberDougherty, George W.gwdjr@pitt.eduGWDJR
Committee MemberSkertich,
Date: 28 June 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 7 April 2011
Approval Date: 28 June 2011
Submission Date: 14 May 2011
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: complex adaptive systems; emergency management; governance; interorganizational cooperation; network analysis; organizational theory; professional capital; public management; social capital
Other ID:, etd-05142011-091956
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:44
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:43


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