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1 March 2022, 15 - 16.30 

Mission invisible? Managing inter-organizational collaboration boundaries

Evelijn Martinius photo.png

Evelijn Martinius

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Collaboration between organizations benefits from organizing work in a shared space. Yet, it is unclear what happens in these shared spaces to improve collaboration. I draw on data from a 12-month ethnography of an inter-organizational innovation project between water authorities and utility owners in the Netherlands to examine a collaborative organizing space. Findings show how project managers were challenged by the invisibility of collaborative work: it was marginalized, it took place far away from core activities at the home organizations, and it was isolated from strategic levels of organizing. Overcoming these challenges required managing the visibility of boundaries shaping collaborative work. Management framed collaborative work as societally relevant and urgent, pushed for tangible outcomes, and anchored collaborative work to traditional markers of a project life cycle. This paper contributes to the literature on boundary spanning by revealing how managing the (in-)visibility of boundaries shapes collaboration across organizations.

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