Creating value through inter-organizational collaboration: A collective action perspective

Juri Matinheikki

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Inter-organizational collaboration plays a pivotal role not just in creating business value but solving contemporary grand challenges on the societal level. However, collaboration has many barriers which are often social rather than technological. Existing practices, regulative pressures, social norms, beliefs, and other institutional mechanisms may come to hinder collective action among organizations. Thus, collaboration and collective action often require institutional change. The purpose of this dissertation project was to examine the empirical challenge of how multiple diverse organizations can jointly create value. The four published empirical articles form the basis of this dissertation by providing different conceptualizations of the empirically-grounded development processes towards inter-organizational value creation. To integrate and synthesize the findings of the four articles, the compiling part then adopts a collective action perspective, which is developed by combining the literatures of behavioral theory of collective action and neo-institutional theory of organization. The collective action perspective suggests that institutional change towards inter-organizational value creation requires actors to solve the second-order collective action problem, which means that establishing institutions that support collective action in fact requires collective action. As the outcome of the synthesis, this dissertation delineates the developmental process of collective action systems showing that solving this paradox requires strategic actions from elite actors with high social positions that grant them the reflexive capacity to deviate from existing institutional constraints. These actors act as mobilizers by forming the initial frame or vision of change, which is then, through a process of negotiations among multiple actors, refined into a system-level goal having a practical task-specific dimension coupled with symbolic representation of the more abstract, yet adherable, vision. The system-level goal becomes then to drive task-specific actions overcoming the second-order collective action problem by motivating actors to jointly change the localized socio-material environment (e.g. by developing a new technology or a physical asset). These changes connect informal rules with technological environment, redefining mundane patterns of organizing and setting governance mechanisms that further support collective action, thus solving the first-order collective action problem. The new settlement can then be sustained through active institutional maintenance. Findings also indicate that collective action systems are vulnerable to endogenous or exogenous shocks. However, such disruptions are necessary evils, permitting renewal and thus institutional change. Overall, the model provides new insights to a theoretical dilemma of the second-order collective action problem as well as to the important practical question of how organizations can engage in joint value creation.
Translated title of the contributionYhteistyön rooli organisaatioiden välisessä arvonluonnissa: Kollektiivisen toiminnan näkökulma
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Artto, Karlos, Supervising Professor
  • Rajala, Risto, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8533-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8534-0
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • collective action
  • inter-organizational relationships
  • value creation
  • institutional change
  • system-level goal
  • second-order collective action problem
  • critical realism


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