(Un)bounding the Meta-Organization: Co-Evolution and Compositional Dynamics of a Health Partnership

Steve Cropper, Sanne Bor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In their treatise on meta-organization, Ahrne and Brunsson theorize a distinctive organizational form, the association of organizations. Meta-organizations have the properties of formal organizations—boundaries set by determinations of membership, goals, a centre of authority, and ways of monitoring and sanctioning member behaviors. The theory draws a strong distinction between meta-organizations and networks, suggesting that similarity among members is the primary characteristic of meta-organizations, whereas networks signify complementarity and difference. Meta-organizations serve and are governed by their members, though the meta-organization itself may develop its own agency and may regulate its members. It is on this basis that Ahrne and Brunsson develop an account of the dynamics of meta-organizations, placing less emphasis on external sources of change than on the internal relationships between members and the meta-organization itself. This paper appraises the theory of meta-organizations, using a case study of Partners in Paediatrics, a subscription association of health care organizations, as the empirical reference point. Data about this partnership’s membership and its activities are drawn from 12 ‘annual reports’ covering a 17-year period. Focusing, particularly, on the membership composition of the Partnership and its relationship to the changing environment, the case analysis traces the changing character and circumstances of the Partnership, identifying four distinct phases, and raising questions for meta-organization theory and its account of meta-organization dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalAdministrative Sciences
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 03.08.2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • dynamics
  • boundaries
  • change
  • co-evolution
  • meta-organization
  • partnership
  • institutional environment
  • composition
  • membership
  • healthcare


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