Networks of Practice for Energy Efficiency: A role for boundary objects
Paper prepared for the 74th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - August 1-5 2014
Authors: Professor Suzanne Benn, Dr. Patrick Crittenden, Dr. Paul Brown, Professor David Brown
In this paper we explore the ability of a network of practice to promote business awareness and capability around energy efficiency. Our theoretical approach draws on Hajer’s (1993) seminal study of the relationship between discourse coalitions, networks and the institutionalization of organizational and network practices. We develop our theoretical perspective through a case study of a government sponsored program encompassing diverse actors that appeared to have been successful in promoting awareness of the business benefits of energy efficiency, with a particular focus on the role played by the accountancy profession in this process. Drawing on data collected at the time to trace success of the initiative, we ask what factors enabled this outcome. Our findings are that the network formed and was maintained as a discourse coalition of key government, industry, professional associations and academic specialists which shared norms and practices concerning energy efficiency. Various boundary objects facilitated shared meaning making around energy efficiency across the network and resulted in shifts in institutional logic around the role of the accountancy profession as regards energy efficiency. The boundary objects enabled the breaking down of disciplinary and role based silos so that the diverse participants in the coalition can more effectively engage with and progress energy efficiency. Our paper adds some understanding as to why some networks rather than others have impacts in terms of shifting institutional logic and facilitating organizational capability. In more general terms, our research informs the question of how networks enable change.