To read this content please select one of the options below:

Exploring absorptive capacity in cross-sector social partnerships

Thomas G Pittz (East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Melissa Intindola (Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 13 July 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore cross-sector partnerships (CSSPs) from a strategic perspective to consider collaborations that are long lasting and transcend initial objectives. The authors integrate the concept of absorptive capacity (ACAP) with the CSSP literature and derive two new antecedents of ACAP, trust and goal interdependency, with relevance to this context. This work responds to a call from ACAP scholars to consider the construct in alternative settings and from collaboration scholars to employ strategy research that approaches CSSPs from a viewpoint beyond a mere transactional approach.


This manuscript presents a thorough analysis of the process literature regarding CSSPs and the construct of ACAP to consider the importance of knowledge sharing and participatory decision making in the success of collaboration efforts. The combination of these research streams results in a refined model of ACAP to be used in the CSSP context.


This manuscript provides conceptual and theoretical insights into how knowledge is acquired and exploited within CSSPs. A model for ACAP in CSSPs is proposed and suggests that two new antecedents of ACAP, trust and goal interdependence, be explored in this context through subsequent empirical research.

Research limitations/implications

This type of conceptual work can benefit greatly from subsequent empirical research to test the developed propositions. This model shows considerable promise for future testing, however, and has the potential to encourage additional research into knowledge sharing and long-term success of cross-sector collaborations.

Practical implications

This paper fulfills the need to apply a strategic lens to CSSPs and invites future research into the mutual organizational benefits derived from collaborations that cross economic sectors. It suggests that internal organizational mechanisms exist to be developed by managers that have the potential to enhance a firms ability to recognize the value of external knowledge, acquire it, and transform it for commercial and/or social objectives.

Social implications

As collaborations across economic sectors are proving vital for addressing complex social needs, this manuscript provides a new model to serve as a guidepost for successful partnerships.


This manuscript fulfills a need to integrate strategy scholarship with CSSPs that transcends the heretofore transactional perspective. Through an exploration of the literature, a new model for ACAP is proposed including two new antecedents, trust and goal interdependence, with application to the context of cross-sector collaborations.



Pittz, T.G. and Intindola, M. (2015), "Exploring absorptive capacity in cross-sector social partnerships", Management Decision, Vol. 53 No. 6, pp. 1170-1183.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles