Managing Competing Demands: Coping With the Inclusiveness–efficiency Paradox in Cross-sector Partnerships

Leona Henry*, Andreas Rasche, Guido Möllering

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

86 Downloads (Pure)


This article discusses how cross-sector partnerships (CSPs) for sustainability manage the paradoxical tension between stakeholder inclusiveness and administrative efficiency. Drawing on qualitative data from a case study of a CSP focused on urban sustainability, we show how the inclusiveness–efficiency paradox unfolded throughout the studied collaboration. We discuss how the paradox reemerged in a different guise within each phase of the partnership and how three practices of paradox management helped actors to cope with the tension: “customized inviting” (during the formation phase), “sequential including” (during the preparation phase), and “tailored instructing” (during the implementation phase). On the basis of these findings, we argue that (a) the paradox reoccurred throughout the phases of the CSP because the three paradox management practices accentuated boundaries, thereby helping to resolve the paradox temporarily while at the same time creating grounds for the paradox to resurface, and (b) that the three paradox management practices can be theorized as a special type of boundary work that “plays up” relevant differences between actor groups and thereby ensures collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness & Society
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)267-304
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Boundary work
  • Climate change
  • Cross-sector partnerships
  • Inclusiveness
  • Paradox

Cite this