I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a new English-language textbook on the management of inter-organizational relations written and edited by Jörg Sydow, Gordon Müller-Seitz and myself and published by Palgrave. While several textbooks on specific topics such as strategic alliancesoutsourcing and offshoring or social networks are already out there, there was to date no comprehensive textbook dealing with different forms of inter-organizational relations from a management perspective that could be used in English-language courses on managing alliances and networks.Palgrave Bild

Several academically-oriented books such as the Oxford Handbook of Inter-Organizational Relations or the book Managing Dynamic Networks are useful to complement teaching, but are – in our experience – too theoretical to structure an entire course. Conversely, practitioner-oriented texts like the Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using Collaborative Networks can only complement, but not fill an entire university course. A case collection on alliance management has been edited by the Ivey School of Business, but this collection does not include textbook chapters.

Our new book aims to include both an introduction to several forms of inter-organizational relations and the underlying academic debates as well as a collection of case studies highlighting particular managerial issues. In an effort to promote research-led teaching, all cases were developed on the basis of research projects conducted by members of the Research Group Inter-firm Networks and the Group’s international network. The book is structured in six parts, four of which comprise the main forms of inter-organizational relations that are distinguished: strategic alliances and networks, regional networks and clusters, global production and supply networks, and innovation and project networks. Especially the chapter on global production and supply networks includes a debate about transnational governance issues and discusses, for instance, the challenges associated with transnationalizing professional services or issues of accountability and liability in global production networks.

Five case studies are available for each of these network types, each focusing on particular management challenges. For strategic alliances and networks, for instance, Jörg Sydow together with Horst Findeisen, Vice President at the Star Alliance Services GmbH, wrote a case on the institutionalization of new management structures in the Star Alliance. For regional networks and clusters, Chacko Kannothra and Stephan Manning from the University of Massachusetts in Boston developed a case on the new impact sourcing trend and its implications for regional development in India. For global production and supply networks, Miriam Wilhelm from the University of Groningen presents details from her in-depth research on Toyota’s practices for managing cooperation and competition. In the chapter on innovation and project networks, Leonhard Dobusch wrote about the development of the international network organization behind Wikimedia.

Overall, this book tackles not only a border-crossing issue – management practices and challenges arising outside of hierarchical organizational boundaries – but also aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice in a new textbook format geared towards advanced bachelor, master and MBA students. The book is complemented by a companion website where teaching notes, a glossary and further informative links for each case are provided.

opisis_anonymous_fotoIn Germany, the renewed interest and media attention on the so-called ‘hacker collective’ Anonymous in the course of its recent #OpISIS – activities targeting online resources of Daesh terrorist groups – has lead to discussions whether one of the most followed German Facebook pages that is labeled “Anonymous” actually and legitimately belongs to Anonymous.

In a way, this is exactly the question that Dennis Schoeneborn and I have addressed in our recent paper on  “Fluiditiy, Identity and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous” (available open access until Dec. 4, 2015). If “Anonymous” is merely a label that anyone can pick up and use, how can some form of organizational identity and boundary be achieved? In short, if anyone can be Anonymous, who cannot speak on behalf of Anonymous? To address these questions, we investigated identity claims in the context of operations where the attribution of respective activities to Anonymous was disputed.

In the current debate, an article in Germany’s largest online news portal Spiegel Online illustrates how difficult drawing the line between ‘authentic’ or ‘real’ and ‘fake’ Anonymous communication can be. After emphasizing the huge numbers of additional followers a facebook page called “Anonymous.Kollektiv” allegedly run by Anonymous had received during #OpISIS (the page attracted 400.000 new fans within just one week in addition to their previous count of 1 million), the article points to the questionable content the site shares. Main topics are conspiracy theories, general criticism of “the lying media” (“Lügenpresse” in Germany) and many other more or less right-wing political issues. But then, at least conspiracy theories and criticism of mainstream media are also recurrent themes of many other social media accounts attributed to Anonymous. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Access logo

Open Access logo

The recent infight between the world’s largest academic publishing company, Elsevier, and (soon: former) editors of one of their journals over attempts to make the journal open access – that is, freely available online – demonstrates the potential power of editorial boards in shaping the digital future of academic publishing.

The academic publishing system runs on reputation. Researchers gain reputation by publishing in reputable journals, which are more read and cited than other journals. The better the reputation of a journal, the more prestigious is it to review and serve as a member of the editorial board. Of course, the related reputation dynamic is self-stabilizing and highly path dependent because prestigious journals get more submissions, have higher rejection rates, more prestigious authors and reviewers, all of which contributes to being cited more often, which in turn is the key reputation metric in most disciplines (see a paper by Jakob Kapeller and myself on this issue for the field of economics).

The path dependence of journal reputation in contempary academic publishing is one of the reasons – if not the main reason – why new open access journals face a steep uphill battle against incumbent journals. The few open access journals that managed to acquire substantial prestige such as some of Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals did so mostly because of the very high prestige of founding editors, including nobel laureates. It is also the reason why simply calling for researchers to switch to open access outlets won’t work. Since careers and funding depend on the proven ability to publish in established “top journals”, researchers in general and early-career researchers in particular have strong incentives to avoid newly founded open access outlets.

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This coming Thursday, I’ll be a panelist on one of The Guardian’s online Live Q&A’s, a series of events which they’ve been running since 2013. The topic of this session is What are the barriers to financial inclusion in fragile states? and questions include: “How can more opportunities be created for people to save and borrow in volatile economies? What expertise can NGOs, the telecoms industry and policymakers offer around innovative ways to reach the most cut off communities? And how do we measure success in countries where conditions are volatile?”

The Q&A will run on Thursday 5 Nov. from 13:00 to 15:00, with a panel of invited experts who answer readers’ questions and comments online and discuss with each other; the whole panel should be confirmed by Wednesday. Of course, input and participation in the Q&A by the readers of this blog would be very welcome and should enrich the debate. As much as it may appear a niche topic, the session connects to questions about the exact role of financial services in development, the priority which donors give to financial development vis-a-vis alternative strategies for income-generation and social inclusion, and the microfinance experience of countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina.


While the recent Google Books ruling by the US Second Circuit has once again proven how the US copyright system is – thanks to its fair use provision – more flexible and adaptable to digital challenges than its European counterpart, in other fields the legal situation is very similar on both sides of the Atlantic. One such field is digital sampling in music, which is the topic of the book “Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling” by McLeod and DiCola (2011, Duke University Press).

Cover of the Book

Cover of the Book “Creative License” by Kembrey McLeod and Peter DiCola (2011, Duke University Press)

Sampling is a comparably recent practice where parts of sound recordings are reused in creating new works. According to McLeod and DiCola, “a good appropriated sample has […] a good quality of its own, and it has a strong reference that evokes cultural resonance as well” (p. 99, emphasis added). The latter of the two, cultural resonance, not only adds an additional meta-layer of cultural reference to a song but is also the main reason for legal calamities associated with sampling. As with remix practices more generally, a core characteristic of sampling is that the old remains visible within the new and is not hidden behind a (more or less transparent) veil of originality.

However, this visibility of creative raw materials – that is, samples of previous works – is considered as some form of creative “short-cut” by the courts, which require samplers to clear each and every sample they use, as small and tiny the portion of sound may be. McLeod and DiCola:

Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films held that no de minimis exception applied to sound recordings. […] [T]he bottom line was, as the ruling stated, ‘Get a license or do not sample.’” (pp. 139, 141)

In Germany, the decision “Metall auf Metall” by Germany’s highest court had identical consequences. The detrimental effects of such a restrictive application of current copyright to the artistic practice of sampling are the reason why sampling-based creativity suffers from permission culture.

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Chapter from the Book "Public Domain", edited by Dominik Landwehr

Chapter from the Book “Public Domain“, edited by Dominik Landwehr

Remixing has long since become a part of our daily lives. Today, when amateurs and artists work with images, texts and music, they are inspired and free. However, in many cases copyright law gets in their way.

During what turned out to be the not-so-hot summer of 2014, a wave of ice water crashed through the internet. Throughout the world, people were filming themselves as they poured buckets of cold water over their heads, sharing the results in social networks and then nominating their friends to perform this strange ritual, which was quickly dubbed the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was a digital chain letter of sorts that spread like wildfire through the internet. The whole thing was actually a call for donations to the ALS Association. ALS is a rare nerve disease.

But this is only a partial description of the phenomenon. In contrast to a chain letter, each ice water performance also had an individual note; it was a continuation of the general motif. In this sense, the Ice Bucket Challenge is also prototypical for digital remix culture.

An example of this remix character is a version of the Ice Bucket Challenge that is circulating in the internet: it is based on the Edvard Munch’s famous picture “The Scream”. The internet picture is a remix and lives off of an interaction between the old and the new. Without a clearly recognizable reference to Edvard Munch’s series of paintings “The Scream”, it would be as inexplicable as it would be without any previous knowledge of the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon. This is the essence of a remix: the old, original work remains identifiable in the new work.

Ice-Bucket-Challenge version of Edvard Munch's "Scream", author unknown (via).

Ice-Bucket-Challenge version of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”, author unknown (via).

The example of the Ice Bucket Challenge is revealing. It illustrates how the internet and digital technologies have contributed to the rise in broadly disseminated – not to mention democratized – remix culture. As a mass phenomenon, this new remix culture is characterized by numerous contradictions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in 2006 went practically unquestioned. But since then, particularly over the last years, a public pro-microfinance/anti-microfinance debate has taken a clear shape with well-known lines of argument running both-ways. Many studies have asked: “Does microfinance work?”. And some have more pointedly asked: “Why doesn’t microfinance work?“.

New questions are needed if new answers are to be generated. The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty offers both. Starting from the question “What does microfinance work at – and how?”, it offers new insights into which have particular significance in light of the continually unresolved issues around poverty impact. More than 35 years into the microfinance experiment, the fact is we still don’t know whether microfinance works at reducing poverty – and there are serious reasons to doubt that it does. What we do know (or can know), however, the book argues, is that microfinance works at financialising poverty.

The Political Economy of Microfinance Financialising Poverty

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The Conference FUTURE€$ – Prospective Money and Money’s Prospects, which I’m organising together with Axel Paul and Cornelius Moriz, will take place from 24-26 September 2015 at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

Futures posterIn February we circulated a Call for Papers that generated an overwhelming response in terms of cutting-edge submissions, from which we could select the very best and put together a set of panels on the nature of money, the Euro crisis, and new monetary technologies. This comes in addition to a stream of talks from leading scholars of money worldwide. A main highlight of the conference is the evening roundtable on Friday 25 September, which assembes four prominent panelists (Christoph Fleischmann, Keith Hart, Dimitris Sotiropoulos, and Rainer Voss) to reflect on the problematic role played by money in our present political-economic juncture.

The conference will bring together multidisciplinary and exploratory perspectives on the nature(s) and future(s) of money. With this list of speakers (from academia, practice, activism and media), it may well be the academic event of the year in its field:

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In the end, nothing happened. When the European parliament adopted a compromise version of MEP Julia Reda’s evaluation report of the EU copyright directive, the attempt of MEP Jean-Marie Cavada to restrict the right to publish pictures of buildings and artworks permanently installed in public places (“freedom of panorama”) was voted down by a huge margin. The majority that had supported the Cavada amendment in the legal affairs committee vanished under a storm of protest, spearheaded by Wikipedians fighting for their right to include pictures of buildings and artworks in their free encyclopedia.

However, while the final version of the report did not suggest restricting freedom of panorama, it did not include a specific provision to protect it, either. Instead, member countries would still be free in whether and how to implement such a limitation into their respective national copyright laws. In a way, this outcome is a typical example of the widespread copyright extremism in Europe, which blocks even the most sensible and moderate copyright reform proposals.

The overall spectrum of opinions in current copyright debates ranges from abolitionism, that is, proposals to discard copyright altogether, to copyright extremism on the other side. Copyright abolitionism is a position sparsely mentioned in regulatory conversations. While authors Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schindel, for instance, have managed to create some buzz around their book “No Copyright”, the attention was only short-lived and the discussion left no real lasting mark on the conversation overall. And abolitionist positions brought forward by libertarian researchers such as Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine and their colleagues have only played a very marginal role in scientific discourse, as well.

However, we observe that rhetoric around ratcheting up extreme copyright protections plays a major role in the mainstream of regulatory conversations around copyright, while rarely recognized and called out as extremism. Rather, even the most far reaching positions are considered perfectly legitimate when brought forward in committee hearings, policy papers or campaigns. In a way, current copyright discourse is heavily skewed towards the side of copyright extremism, which makes any moderate and balanced reform of copyright laws difficult, if not impossible. Taking a closer look at the relentless rhetoric of copyright extremism might therefore help to identify and address this problem.

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Excerpt from “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty”, Chapter 2, A Genealogy of Microfinance. (see other excerpts here)

Microcredit allowed the well-institutionalized tool of credit programming to remain inside mainstream development policy, despite a diminished role for governments, and despite the fall from grace of subsidies. In reality, microcredit programming merely shifted the subsidies and state involvement one level “up”: no longer were loans to the poor subsidized and publicly supported; now the organizations which lent to the poor were subsidized and supported.

Historical growth of the microfinance industry

Sources: World Bank (2001); Maes/Reed (2012); MIX (2013) = Basic MIX MFI Data Set, as of 26 December 2013.

Reliable data on microfinance from before 2000 are very rare. In the mid-1990s the World Bank surveyed the sector and counted over 900 “institutions which offer microfinancial services” (around 735 of them being “proper” microfinance institutions), each serving at least 1,000 clients. The list included seven large banks and one NGO. The survey tallied around $5 billion in outstanding loans. However, the vast majority of MFIs were recently founded NGOs which placed little, if any, emphasis on savings and received over two-thirds of their funding from donors (see Figure below). This group was fast-growing. The World Bank (2001: 4) noted: “Much of the impetus for this growth comes from donor organizations and NGOs embracing microfinance as the latest tool in development and poverty reduction. Due to the increasing availability of donor funds, microfinance institutions have grown rapidly.”

Standardizing microfinance, financially

The World Bank’s decision to support microfinance primarily through its International Finance Corporation (IFC) arm, whose purpose is “financing private sector investment, mobilizing capital in the international financial markets, and providing advisory services” (IFC 2011), affected which type of organizational model would become dominant: MFIs that were willing and able to manage funds that were channelled from mainstream financial markets were favoured. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
November 2015
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