Competing Logics from the CSO Perspective in a Partnership on Undocumented Migration with the State: A Case Study of Villa Vrede
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The Dutch state, municipalities, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) collaborate in a Cross-Sector Social Partnership (CSSP) to find long-lasting solutions to the problem of undocumented people in the Netherlands. Though they all wish for a sustainable solution, their goals, norms, and values differ, potentially affecting the collaboration. While literature in organizational studies lacks research on the perspective of CSOs in collaboration with the state in CSSPs, this research bridges that gap through the lens of institutional logics. It aims to understand how CSO members perceive such a partnership, if and where they perceive tension through competing logics, and which strategies they use to maneuver through them to sustain their activities to keep raising the flag for social justice. The case study contained ethnographic methodologies, such as participant observations and conducted interviews, and took place at Villa Vrede (VV), a CSO in this national collaboration in the Netherlands on undocumented migration. Data analysis occurred through thematic analysis. The findings show how dominantly state logics are perceived by CSO members and that strategies are chosen based on their perceived hierarchical position within the CSSP, acting with resourcefulness within the margins of their place of power in the partnership. For example, members use the strategy of defiance when this isn’t expected from the less powerful actor in the partnership. In line with the literature, members also use the strategy of avoidance, among other strategies. This research contributes to the literature by showing that impact and change can happen in the margins by collaborating with and simultaneously avoiding the powerful partner(s). It shows how the state needs the operational services of CSOs, creating space for CSO members to negotiate, maneuver, and potentially push dominant and long-existing institutions back to open space for re-evaluation with a social justice perspective, thereby changing the CSSP landscape. In addition, it shows that CSO practices like VV can continue to raise awareness on social justice and might shift the collaboration in the long term in their favor by understanding and mapping out where their services are vital for more powerful partners in the CSSP. It can also help create a strategy and a more powerful position to negotiate the partnership's terms, conditions, and underlying values. This can encourage CSO members to – instead of trying to change the power imbalance – use strategies creatively by looking for alternative ways of exercising influence and creating change in CSSPs within their hierarchy.