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Dialogue and distributed agency in institutional transmission

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andrea Whittle, Professor Frank Mueller



In this paper we contribute to the body of work on agency and institutional transmission by proposing two new concepts: distributed agency and dialogue. 'Distributed agency' is a companion concept to 'institutional entrepreneurship'. Whilst institutional entrepreneurship emphasizes the deliberate institution-building by a select few, distributed agency highlights the emergent institution-building that involves all organizational members. In turn, 'dialogue' supplements the models of institutional diffusion by drawing attention to the situated interactions between the 'champions' and the 'recipients' of institutional innovations. We analyze the micro-discursive processes during a crucial event in the institutionalization of a new organizational template in a UK public-private partnership. We found that institutional transmission hinged upon enabling the recipients to act as agents (hence, distributed agency) through dialogue around the audience's identity, interests and local concerns vis-à-vis coercive institutional pressures.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whittle A, Suhomlinova O, Mueller F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Management and Organization

Year: 2011

Volume: 17

Issue: 4

Pages: 548-569

Print publication date: 01/07/2011

Online publication date: 02/02/2015

Acceptance date: 15/12/2010

Date deposited: 24/04/2015

ISSN (print): 1833-3672

ISSN (electronic): 1839-3527

Publisher: eContent Management Pty Ltd


DOI: 10.5172/jmo.2011.17.4.548



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