Adaptive Responsibilities: Non-Linear Interactions across Social Sectors Cases from Cross Sector Social Partnerships

Dr. Maria May Seitanidi
Lecturer, Brunel Business School
Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
Visiting Fellow
ICCSR-International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility
Nottingham University Business School



Social entrepreneurship and cross sector social partnerships are processes that can deliver change and social innovation by operating at the bridge of sectorial boundaries. Both processes require reframing the ‘rules of the market game’ and questioning fundamental assumptions. The paper presents instances of social innovation failure from cross sector social partnerships that can shed light to the reasons behind the failure of change mechanisms. Cross Sector Social Partnerships are conceptualised as complex adaptive systems representing at least two social sectors interacting across all levels of reality: social, organisational and individual. They also function as a platform for social innovation and organisational change leading to a space of possibilities for social change. The case studies presented between nonprofit organisations and businesses demonstrate that when the strategic intent of the social actors is prescriptive it imprisons the possibilities for fundamental change due to the pre-defined responsibilities associated with different individual or social agents. The paper is calling to move beyond reactive and proactive responsibilities and shift towards accepting adaptive responsibilities that require a multidimensional understanding towards all three levels of reality. Adaptive responsibilities, is an empowering approach, based on the co-evolution of organisational actors that holds the seeds of reciprocal or two directional multi-level change.