Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Hybrid Organizing: Case Studies of Skills and Attributes Used to Generate Impact when Working at the Intersection of Sectors
by Justis, Cleveland, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2019, 214; 22622900
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the skills and attributes utilized by strategic organizational actors working across the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to create hybrid ventures, which are increasingly used by practitioners hoping to solve entrenched social problems. Much of the extant literature focuses on tensions present in hybrid organizations instead of seeing hybridity as a matter of degree, whose end goal is quite often not the formation of a formal hybrid organization. Further, scant practitioner and scholarly research to date describes, at the individual level, the skills and approaches strategic actors employ to build hybrid ventures. This study aims to illuminate these skills and approaches and contribute to much-needed theory on hybrid organizing, or the process of forming and maintaining hybrid ventures.

Utilizing a qualitative, multi-case, comparative research design with deep roots in grounded theory, this study examines the skills and attributes utilized by strategic actors in hybrid ventures. All three cases have actors from all three sectors in prominent roles. The first case follows the formation of the Presidio Trust, primarily led by leaders employed by a nonprofit organization. The hybrid venture became a formal hybrid organization owned by the federal government. The second case is a temporary hybrid venture formed to change residential lighting standards in California, which was primarily led by actors employed by the government (UC Davis and California state government regulators). The final case is a loosely knit, ongoing hybrid venture called the African Orphan Crop Consortium (AOCC) led by the chief agronomist of the Mars Corporation, a large multinational, privately held corporation.

Building on existing theory from the organizations, hybrid organizations, institutional logics, and nexus work literature, this research primarily contributes to literature on hybrid organizations by demonstrating the skills and attributes used by strategic actors in hybrid organizing. In particular, the dissertation discusses four broad skill groupings used by strategic actors in the cases: integrative skills, social skills, technical skills, and political skills, and the implications of the application of these skills for better understanding hybrid organizing. For practitioners, I contribute a more specific and nuanced view of potentially learnable skills and approaches that could be used by leaders in other hybrid venture settings. A crucial finding was the importance of strategic actors having technical and domain-specific skills, because these skills brought them credibility when reframing the conversation and changing the direction of the ventures. Another finding is the importance of actors utilizing power relationships and engaging skillfully in the political process. In the hybrid ventures I researched, strategic actors utilized political skills and power in often subtle ways, with the impact forged in one individual at a time. In some cases, the greatest impact occurred through hidden power and obfuscation. Building on extant literature on social skills, my research also demonstrates the importance of the skills of framing, managing incumbents, and understanding the language and culture of the other partners in the initiative (multivocality). Finally, the importance of integrative skills became clear. Often, these integrative skills involve strategic actors taking a network-based approach that brought in non-traditional partners who amplified the value of the work.

I hope to make two primary theoretical contributions to the literature. First, my research begins to answer recent calls for clearer theoretical illustrations of hybrid organizing, away from the dominant literature’s focus on the tensions and struggles inherent in the formation of hybrid organizations. In addition to contributing to an understanding of hybrid organizing, my hope is that this research advances nexus work theory by showing the application of skills and approaches in a hybrid environment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hargadon, Andrew
Commitee: Biggart, Nicole, Benner, Chris
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Entrepreneurship, Geography, Management, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Cross sector, Innovation, Logics, Nonprofit, Partnership, Social entrepreneurship
Publication Number: 22622900
ISBN: 9781392424322
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