CSO and Business Collaboration - the Partnership Hallelujah Revisitet
Jenny Ahlstrom and Emma Sjostrom, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Cross-sectoral partnerships has been promoted and praised as a solution to environmental and social problems since the late 1990s. This study was carried out in order to find out if the partnership idea is prevailing among civil society organisations (CSOs), and what their stance really is when it comes to collaborating with business.

The study finds that CSOs' choice of how to interact with corporations in order to pursue goals mainly depends on two things: (1) Organisations are children of their time; and (2) Organisations' ontology – what they see as the basic characteristics of reality – guide their actions. The two determinants are interconnected, since ontology is (in part) shaped by the particulars of certain periods. This also leads to a categorization of the ten interviewed organisations into four groups: Preservers, Protesters, Modifiers, and Scrutinizers.

A conclusion from this paper is that partnerships between corporations and CSOs is only possible where they share world-views and where the CSO's actions is not reliant on autonomy from corporate influence. Given our analysis, this means that corporations can only collaborate with what we have identified as “preservers”. CSOs that fall within this category are the only ones who accept current corporate systems and whose goals are not inherently conflicting with joint action.

Does this mean that the partnership hallelujah is justified? What we can tell from our study is that the partnership hallelujah is justified if one subscribes to the dominant social paradigm and do not seek radical change; and if one takes into account that far from all CSOs are partnership candidates. Since this implicates that the partnership praise can only attract certain parts of the civil society sector, the singers may either want to tone it down a bit, or make sure that they target the right listeners.

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