Common grounding: How to nurture cross-sector collaborations for social innovation

Anne-laure Fayard, Anne-claire Pache

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


In this paper, we identify the role of common grounding, a continuous and interactional alignment of understandings and emotional engagement, in initiating and sustaining cross-sector collaborations for social innovation. Through a 32-month inductive qualitative study, we explore how Green City Force (GCF), a NYC not-for-profit organization, successfully initiated and sustained collaborations with public, not-for-profit, and for-profit partners to produce new solutions to longstanding social and environmental issues. We found that GCF engaged partners through common grounding, which involved two types of interactions: conversations that created mutual understanding and trust; and rituals which provided evidence of the value of the collaboration and generated emotional attachment to it. Common grounding was enacted within a flexible scheme delineated along four dimensions – two objectives and two modes of engagement. By allowing multiple interpretations, the scheme was key in fostering the interests of diverse partners. Our paper contributes to the literatures on cross-sector collaboration and social innovation. It highlights collaboration as a continuous social accomplishment requiring both cognitive and emotional engagement. It also shows the value of ambiguity, defined as the quality of being open to more than one interpretation, to trigger and sustain collaborations when their purpose is the production of innovative solutions
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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