The Legitimacy of Bottom-up Governance: The Role of Multi-Stakeholder GVC Partnerships in Ethiopia

Sarah Castaldi, Rineke Slager, Tine Walravens

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Multi-stakeholder initiatives(MSIs) have emerged as forms of collaborative, horizontal governance aimed atadvancing the sustainable development of global value chains (GVC). Despitetheir recent popularity and good intentions, legitimacy deficits emerged,preventing more significant improvements in terms of sustainability.Consequently, academics and policy makers have called for more civil societyorganization (CSO) involvement in GVC governance. This article applies agrounded theory approach to a single, deviant case study: an EU-funded, CSO-ledGVC MSI, consisting of public, private, and civil society organizations both inEurope and Ethiopia, which aims to promote a sustainable cotton and garmentvalue chain of Ethiopian cotton to European consumers. To analyze the case, weconducted 69 in-depth semi-structured interviews. Our findings show theinterplay between politically and socially driven legitimacy concerns in thecontext of CSO-led MSIs. Specifically, our results contrast the bottom-upnature of CSO-led MSIs against Ethiopia's hierarchical, top-down structuresdeeply ingrained in local institutions. This global-local mismatch createssocial legitimacy challenges for the project, which in return, contributes toboth input and output legitimacy deficits. This is mainly visible from the lackof local ownership by 'powerful' project partners, whose presence in theproject is paramount for social legitimacy, but whose specific interests alsoimpede output legitimacy at the highest level. Overall, while CSO-led MSIs areconfronted with similar legitimacy challenges than either traditional (global)or local MSIs, it is their strong footing in the local market that allows themto create value for stakeholders at the bottom (i.e., workers).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-second Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonja Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022: Creating a Better World Together - Seattle, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20229 Aug 2022
Conference number: 82


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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