Co-constructing regulation: the role of a meta-organization

Last week at Abbé Grégoire Innovation Day, Antoine Souchaud and I presented a paper the role of a meta-organization in the collective construction of regulation in an emerging sector. We look at crowdfunding in France and its structuration by FPF, a sectoral meta-organization.

We had many interesting comments, especially on the deviant dimension of actors who set up a new regulatory framework.

Thanks every one for this great day of conferences !



Collectively designing sustainable practices in the extractive industries

Few industries have been pressured to develop corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards and policies like oil and gas and mining industries.

This has translated into the creation of non-governmental organizations and branches of the oil and gas firms focused on CSR. However, given the intrinsic complex characteristics of this industry, its global reach, and the fact that its operations affect and involve a wide variety of stakeholders, CSR issues cannot be defined and implemented exclusively at the industry or firm levels, but require the participation of other actors affected directly or indirectly by oil and gas activities.

In this paper we argue, first, that oil and gas CSR issues are collectively constructed through meta-organizations (organizations composed by other organizations), and, second, that the complexity and variety of CSR issues require companies to build industry-specific and non-industry-specific collective actions. Based on how oil and gas firms participate in this multi-level co-construction of CSR issues, we created a typology of meta-organizations as infra-sectoral, sectoral, cross-sectoral, and supra-sectoral meta-organizations.

Read more on the Journal Of Business Ethics

And here

What roles do meta-organizations play in performing sustainability?

By what chain of actions does an idea as abstract as “sustainable development” come to have effects on corporate management at the operational level? After describing a setup of arrangements involving meta-organizations and the oil industry, questions are raised about the resulting organizational complexity.

This is the topic my new paper published in the online version of Gérer et Comprendre addresses :

Read more here on Researchgate

The importance of the concept of meta-organization

Our paper was published in the European Management Review on the concept of meta-organization !

In a seminal paper published in 2005 in the Scandinavian Journal of Management, Ahrne and Brunsson introduced into management studies the concept of ‘metaorganization’, which existed already in other fields such as biology. The two Swedish authors used it to refer to an organization whose members are other organizations rather than individuals. Three years later, they published a book on the topic (Ahrne and Brunsson, 2008). In 2012, independently and without quoting Ahrne and Brunsson, Gulati et al. (2012) used again the notion in an article of the Strategic Management Journal. Meta-organizations include a very broad range of structures that belong to the universe of firms, political institutions and non-profit organizations. Beyond this empirical diversity lies an essential reality, namely the growing importance of collective action among organizations. The significance of this field increases as major contemporary societal problems, such as sustainable development in its environmental, economic and social dimensions, human rights, and corporate social responsibility, call for more collective action at a global level. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the concept of ‘meta-organization’ appeared independently in the mid-2000s…

read more about this important topic here !

Call for Papers – Euram 2016 – SIG Business for Society

We invite you to submit papers to the Track Organizing collective action: meta, partial and temporary organizations (T 01_08)

Collective action among organizations is increasing and needs to take new adaptive forms. Literature has recently started to investigate these flexible organizational devices, ranging from formal meta-organization—organizations which members are themselves organizations (Ahrne and Brunsson 2008, Berkowitz and Dumez 2015)— to more partial or transitory inter-organizational forms such as permanent cooperations, partnerships, projects and so on (Gulati et al. 2012, Jones and Lichtenstein 2008). The degree of partiality (Ahrne and Brunsson 2010) often varies. When collective action among organizations develops, it integrates more or less of several elements among hierarchy, membership, rules, monitoring and sanctions.

Meta-organizations cover international government organizations such as WTO and non-governmental such as Star Alliance, FIFA, CEMS, etc. Transitory organizations describe energy megaprojects, inter-organizational collaborations, and world sports events coordination. Reasons to set these up are numerous, from the need for collective CSR, to standardization, governance of transnational projects, collaboration between consumer associations, etc. We welcome case studies with strong theoretical implications, covering the empirical diversity: organization among firms, among stakeholders such as NGO, governments, municipalities, temporary organizations, social movements, standardization, etc.

We want to investigate these manageable types of cooperation. Our current understanding of collective action involving organizations is limited by the lack of a strong theorizing to conceptualize rationale, dynamics and processes of collective action organizing. Especially, the creation process of meta-organizations and other forms is not well known: from the decision process (creating an organization of organizations) to the choice of an organizational form (partial or complete, formal or informal, profit or non-profit, transitory or permanent…), or of membership (businesses, universities, governments, associations, civil society…). The dynamics of these organizational forms (stability, life and death) and their efficiency are also key topics that papers submitted to the call could address.

We welcome you to join us in Paris in June 2016 !

More information and submission process on Euram website 

Deadline for submission: 12th of January 2016 (2 pm Belgian time)


Ahrne, G., N. Brunsson. 2005. “Organizations and meta-organizations”.Scandinavian Journal of Management, 21(4), pp. 429–449.

Ahrne, G., N. Brunsson. 2008. Meta-organizations. Cheltenham, Glos, UK; Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Ahrne, G., N. Brunsson. 2010. “Organization outside organizations: the significance of partial organization”. Organization 18(1) 83–104.

Ahrne, G., N. Brunsson. 2010. “L’organisation en dehors des organisations ou l’organisation incomplète”, Le Libellio d’AEGIS, 6(1), pp. 1-20

Berkowitz, H., H. Dumez. 2015. “La dynamique des dispositifs d’action collective entre firmes: le cas des méta-organisations dans le secteur pétrolier”. Année Sociologique, 65(2), pp. 333-524.

Gulati, R., P. Puranam, M. Tushman. 2012. “Meta-organization design: Rethinking design in interorganizational and community contexts”. Strategic Management Journal 33(6) 571–586.

Jones, C., B. B. Lichtenstein. 2008. Temporary inter-organizational projects: how temporal and social embeddedness enhance coordination and manage uncertainty. Oxf. Handb. Inter-Organ. Relat. 231–255.


Hervé Dumez is research director (CNRS)  director of the CRG (Center in Management Studies), École polytechnique, and director of i3 (the Interdisciplinary Institute of Innovation) that brings together management, sociology and economics research centers from Mines ParisTech, Polytechnique and Telecom Paris. He was visiting professor at M.I.T. (2001) and at Stockholm School of economics (2012). His research focuses on interactions between strategies, market structures and regulation policies. He authored or co-authored more than 50 articles in peer reviewed journals and 10 books, including a last one on qualitative research methodology, which is to be published in English. He is associate editor at the European Management Review.

Nils Brunsson holds the Chair in Management at Uppsala University, Sweden. He has published more than twenty books in the field of organization theory, including “Organizing Organizations” (ed. with J.P. Olsen, 1998) and “Meta-organizations” (with G. Ahrne, 2008). He is affiliated to Score (Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research) where he is currently leading a research program on the organization of markets.

Christina Garsten is professor at the Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University and at the Department of Intercultural and Management at the Copenhagen Business School. She is Chair of Score (Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research), which is a centre for multidisciplinary research on the organization of society ( She was previously Director of Score and Research Director at the same centre. Christina Garsten’s research interests are oriented towards organizational anthropology, with a special focus on globalization processes in corporations and markets. She has done fieldwork in the US, the UK, and Sweden.

Héloïse Berkowitz is a Phd applicant at i3-CRG, Ecole Polytechnique. She graduated from HEC Paris, la Sorbonne and CEMS. Her research deals with sustainable collective strategies and meta-organizations in the energy sector. She is interested in topics such as the performativity of social sciences, interorganizational collective action between firms and stakeholders, and specific transdisciplinary issues such as human rights and oceans’ management