Does Power Imbalance Matter in Corporate-Nonprofit Partnerships?
Mutch, Nicola Esme
A corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity for many companies has been to enter into partnerships with nonprofit organisations. As the practice has grown in prevalence, questions have been raised regarding the fairness of the exchanges underpinning the partnerships. Such concerns are generated in relation to potential power imbalances of the partnership, widely perceived to favour the corporate partner. Despite fears that such power imbalanced partnerships have the potential to lead to abusive or opportunistic behaviour on the part of the more powerful partner, and may undermine the institutions of CSR altogether, there is an absence of empirical research that critically examines how power and justice are experienced in corporate-nonprofit partnerships. This problem is the central focus of this study. Drawing upon social exchange and power-dependency theories and organizational justice literature, a qualitative, case study methodology is developed, enabling the implications of power imbalances in partnerships to be explored through participants’ appraisal of justice outcomes in a CSR context. Participants’ experiences of power and dependency, justice, and perceptions of CSR as informing power dynamics and exchange outcomes are analysed. The results indicate that CSR complicates the environment for exchanges, is based on inconsistent ethical principles and breeds uncertainty in partners’ expectations. Against this background, the partners’ dependency and ability to effect change is examined, with the study generating a new model for understanding useable power as a subset of partner dependency, as power use is moderated by perceptual, social and practical barriers. Experiences of justice are explored in terms of satisfaction with distributive, procedural and interactional justice outcomes. This reveals a range of criteria participants invoke to judge justice outcomes, and argues for greater integration of justice and value theories. In drawing together power and justice experiences, the study finds that where power is significantly imbalanced, perceived justice is high; conflict and perceptions of injustice increase as power equalises in the partnerships.
Advisor: Lawson, Robert; Aitken, Robert; Gray, Brendan
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Marketing
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: power; justice; nonprofit; partnerships; corporate social responsibility; CSR; exchange
Research Type: Thesis