Critical Mass for Partnership Collaboration
Monica Macquet, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
In this paper the socio-technical aspect of partnership collaboration between different stakeholder groups will be highlighted. The solution of environmental problems, or rather the small steps towards sustainability, is often considered to be a technical one. Two empirical cases show that a larger and a more important problem is to enroll a critical mass of actors in the collaboration projects. This is also the way that actors and technology are inter-connected. This interconnectedness between technological artifacts and human beings as actors is explained in the actor-network theory (Latour, 1992; Callon and Law, 1989).

The empirical part in the paper consists of two case-studies of partnerships carried out in Sweden. One partnership is carried out by the Swedish government with companies from the food supply chain, and municipalities. The second partnership is between a logistics company, the local University, and the municipality.

The two partnerships are not just groups for experience exchange, as many partnerships are. The aim has been to change activities carried out in the market. As the companies actively involved in the partnerships, has already made internal environmental adaptations, they are now seeking ways to co-ordinate the activities with other companies. This is not easy, since other actors must be persuaded, i.e. enrolled (Callon, 1986), in the projects. Even though this enrolment may seem evident, this social aspect is strongly neglected in the beginning of the two partnerships studied, which leads to problems later on. The aim of the paper is to highlight this important part of partnerships, and also to give some normative advice on enrollment.

If anyone expects me to tell the one and only truth about the perfect number for the critical mass of participants in a partnership, they will be extremely disappointed. That number depends on the circumstances, and the appreciations of the actors.

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