October 2 @ 14:30 – 16:00
This Research Seminar was organized by the Management & Organizations department and the ERA Chair in Social Innovation.
Juliane Reinecke is Professor of Management Studies at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Prof Juliane’s research draws on insights from organisation theory, political philosophy, and process studies to explore, broadly speaking, how transnational governance institutions emerge and evolve as a result of the interactions of multiple stakeholders to promote more just and sustainable forms of globalisation in global supply chains, but also organisations in general.
Title: Confronting constructive ambiguity and escalating commitment to a collective action institution: the Bangladesh Accord
This paper investigates a core challenge in building multi-stakeholder institutions for collective action: A degree of constructive ambiguity – the deliberate use of imprecise language on a sensitive issue – is often needed to overcome conflict and enable agreement among multiple parties. However, the initially enabling characteristics of constructive ambiguity may complicate implementation when ambiguous commitments must be translated into concrete actions. To examine the role of constructive ambiguity in building an institution for collective action, we draw on an eight-year study of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety among unions, NGOs and over 200 companies to end the series of deadly accidents in the Bangladesh garment sector. Despite the ever-present risk of watering down the agreement during implementation, our findings reveal how parties confronted constructive ambiguity through a political process of meaning negotiation and commitment renewal. We identify the mechanisms through which political conflict was leveraged to wrest repeated action re-commitments from companies, increasing parties’ skin in the game and leading commitment to escalate beyond initial self-commitment. We advance a political process view of collective action that explains how collective rationality evolves that directs private interests toward collective ends to resolve transnational collective action problems.