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Managing Paradoxes in Governance – Tensions in the Emergence of a New Board

Contingency, Behavioural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Public and Nonprofit Governance

ISBN: 978-1-78560-429-4, eISBN: 978-1-78560-428-7

Publication date: 6 November 2015



Taking a micro-perspective of governance that includes problem-solving and stakeholder involvement capabilities as part of the strategic steering role, we wish to contribute to the understanding of the human side of governance. Thus we have studied the relationships between the board and its management and stakeholders, and in so doing we recognize internal and external actors as well as the board itself, and how they all contribute to the implementation of the governance function.


Based on an interpretative approach that focuses on change over time, we performed a qualitative empirical study of the governance of Robotdalen, a small non-profit public organization in Sweden that is a joint public and private collaboration. This chapter forms part of a longitudinal study that has been carried out since 2009. It is based primarily on interviews with board members, management and other stakeholders, and complemented by document studies and observations.


Governance practice entails multiple and multilevel tasks, and the tensions between representativeness/professional boards, conformance/performance, and controlling/partnering up with management, are prevalent in both small non-profit and public organizations. According to our results the apparent choice between the extremes of each tension is, however, not a choice at all but rather a balancing act. In trying to balance tensions through collaboration between managers, board, financiers, and the hosting university, new governance structures and practices emerge at the organizational level.


By following the process of the emergence of a new board, we illustrate how various actors work together to co-produce governance functions in practice. In the past little or no effort has been made to take into account contextual factors such as organizational size – an aspect that may influence or shape board characteristics and work methodology. We therefore attempt to do so in our chapter, by studying the emergence of a new board in a small public organization, what possible paradoxes and tensions are involved in such work, and how such tensions are managed.




An earlier version of the chapter was presented at the XVIII International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM) conference in Ottawa, Canada – April 9–11. Panel E5 – In middle of a crowded intersection: The governance of public and non-profit organizations facing the challenge of balancing performance, democracy and accountability.


Höglund, L., Holmgren Caicedo, M. and Mårtensson, M. (2015), "Managing Paradoxes in Governance – Tensions in the Emergence of a New Board", Contingency, Behavioural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Public and Nonprofit Governance (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-30.



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