Exploring the Accomplishment of Inter-organizational Collaboration

The Value of Thick Descriptions

Authored by: Emmanouil Gkeredakis

The Routledge Companion to Anthropology and Business

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  June  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138496422
eBook ISBN: 9781003052456
Adobe ISBN:


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Ethnographers in general and organizational ethnographers, in particular, have long paid attention to the role of documents in social practices. In this chapter, I build and extend on their insights by exploring the embeddedness of face-to-face interactions (conversations constitutive of communicative practices) within a nexus of documentary practices. I show how the co-production of a document in a local interaction setting is interconnected with trans-local documentary practices, which are uncovered through “thick descriptions.” Based on fieldwork (non-participant) observations in the English healthcare sector, I explore the local accomplishment of inter-organizational collaboration, which revolved round the collective production and agreement of a formal document – contract specifications. While inter-organizational collaboration happened predominantly through the situated doings and sayings of local actors, who acted as representatives of different organizations, for the people I was observing, collaboration was meaningful primarily because it was entangled in a broader pursuit of improving healthcare services at a national, not merely local level. Reaching text-based agreement was an effortful process of drawing upon and incorporating “evidence” and standards that had been produced through distant activities. I provide a thick description of material associations among multiple texts (“standards” and evidence) and highlight consequences for inter-organizational collaboration.

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