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Oxford Workshop on Reputations & NGOs

by Aseem Prakash, Michael Barnett, Brayden King, & Rowena Olegario

July 15-17, 2014

The ‘Oxford view’ of reputation advanced by the Centre for Corporate Reputation is a multi-dimensional one, seeing reputation not as a cumulative social evaluation, but instead as something that is ‘for something, with someone’. From July 15-17, scholars will convene at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School to discuss different dimensions of reputation as it relates to one specific organizational type: the non-governmental organization (NGO). The workshop will be hosted by the Centre for Corporate Reputation.

Reputational considerations are especially salient for this type of organization for a variety of reasons. Like profit-focused organizations, NGOs depend on the external environment for resources and the “social license to operate”. However, there are significant information asymmetries associated with this organizational form, since NGOs are not subject to extensive disclosure requirements in many jurisdictions, and they are not monitored by the stock market. Media reports of NGO scandals illuminate the consequent potential for “agency conflict”. At the same time, NGOs may turn to reputational mechanisms to achieve their own goals, adopting strategies and tactics aimed at influencing for-profit firms’ reputations in the eyes of various stakeholders, and this may lead to counter-attacks by firms fearing their reputations tarnished.

Examining both advocacy organizations in particular and non-profit organizations in general, scholars from a variety of disciplines will join NGO representatives at the workshop to discuss and debate two core themes:

  1. How might reputation serve to regulate NGOs? How do NGOs seek to shape their multiple reputations? What are their specific strategies, and what shapes their efficacy?

  2. What are the reputational dynamics and consequences of NGO-firm interactions? How and when do NGOs influence corporate reputations? How and when do corporations influence NGO reputations?

Eight papers will be presented:

Edward Walker – ‘Keeping off the astroturf: Reputations and authenticity in audience judgments of business advocacy’

Shon Hiat – ‘Organizational responses to movement-induced policymaking: Climate change hearings, protests, and new technology development among U.S. oil and gas firms’

Ronnelle Burger and Trudy Owen – ‘The tight rope of NGO reputation: Concealment and misrepresentation amidst competing stakeholder demands’

Sera Linardi – ‘Religion and risky social investments: An experiment on Sharia banking’

Mae McDonnell – ‘Bad company: Reputational risk for NGOs in cross-sector collaborations’

Witold Henisz – When does a stakeholder attack become a reputational crisis?: Stakeholder capital and the micro-foundations of corporate reputation’

Amanda Sharkey – ‘When do ratings have indirect effects?: The organizational response to peers’ environmental ratings’

Deana Rohlinger – ‘Organizational reputation, mass media, and institutional change’

The workshop has been organized by Aseem Prakash (University of Washington), Michael Barnett (Rutgers Business School), Brayden King (Northwestern University), and Rowena Olegario (Centre for Corporate Reputation). Please feel free to comment here on the questions being discussed at this workshop, and stay tuned for reporting from the conference.

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