UNTFSSE Award Series (2023 ICA Global and European Cooperative Research Conference): Cooperative Associations – Frameworks of Distributed Leadership for Collective Digital Innovation

Abstract - EN

Digital innovation and transformation have been mainly studied at the level of a single organization: in the cooperative movement, platform cooperative have triggered a lot of attention, with exciting studies about the potentials and limitations about how a digital platform can integrate into a cooperative governance. However, digital innovation at the level of a group of cooperatives, such as automated data-sharing systems, has remained (to our knowledge) unexplored, leaving scholars and practitioners with poor knowledge and material to support a large-scale digital transition of the cooperative movement. This paper aims at contributing to fill this gap by studying how a group of cooperatives or social economy organizations can collectively take leadership over a digital project within the framework of a meta- organization – more commonly known as a cooperative association or umbrella organization. To do so, we shaped a theoretical model mobilizing the emerging theory of meta-organizations (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2005) together with concept of distributed leadership (Huxham & Vangen, 2000), and conducted a preliminary qualitative study based on two cases in Quebec. This enables us to identify configurations preventing or supporting the emergence of collective digital projects, by taking into account characteristics of both the meta-organization and its members. We believe that such findings could open a new stream of research on cooperatives adopting interorganizational collaboration as a unit of analysis, and help cooperative practitioners in conducting complex data-sharing innovations.