Institutional Embeddedness and Opportunities of Cross-Sector Social Partnerships: A Case Study of Cities Changing Diabetes in Mexico City

Anine Marie Bundgård & Signe Köllner Christensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis examines how cross-sector social partnerships interact with their institutional context by exploring three different aspects: 1) how the institutional context conditions the formation of cross-sector social partnerships; 2) what constraints the institutional context can pose to governance; and, 3) how some of these constraints can be bridged by cross-sector social partnerships.
While cross-sector social partnerships (CSSPs) comprise an important and increasingly popular frame for the collaboration between sectors, the embeddedness of partnerships in specific institutional contexts is understudied in the literature. This thesis addresses this gap by examining the case of the CSSP Cities Changing Diabetes (CCD) in Mexico City (CDMX).
Through the analysis of our empirical findings, it becomes apparent that CCD in CDMX is conditioned and constrained by the institutional context through barriers in the form of formal and informal institutions. Formal institutional constraints comprise a fragmented health system, few public resources, political discontinuity, and ineffective bureaucracy. Furthermore, the present case demonstrates how informal institutions play a significant role in Mexico and highlights key factors that affect partnerships: a strong orientation towards informal institutions and personal relations, a skepticism towards private actors involved in governance, as well as the fear of and prevalence of corruption.
However, the present case also shows opportunities that CSSPs can present in bridging some of these constraints. By joining different societal actors in cross-sector collaboration, CSSPs can help secure the long-term commitment of the actors involved to the shared objective of the CSSP. As such, it can be argued that CSSPs can reduce the issue of political discontinuity, while simultaneously bridging fragmented health systems by uniting actors from different fields. Additionally, as this has become an adopted practice thatis expected to outlast the CCD partnership, it can be argued that CCD has also influenced the institutional context.
Nonetheless, while CSSP governance constellations can as such be a useful tool to overcoming institutional challenges, they cannot overcome all institutional constraints. This indicates that the partnership literature in itself is not always sufficient to understand problems of governance through partnerships. Furthermore, this study raises questions regarding the legitimacy and accountability of governance through CSSPs and argues that there exists a trade-off between accountability and efficiency in CSSPs.
The present study represents an important contribution to the existing CSSP literature by enriching the current understanding of CSSPs. Furthermore, the thesis sheds light on the understudied phenomenon of health CSSPs in Mexico and underlines the importance of the institutional context for CSSPs. As such, with this thesis, we call for a more embedded approach to partnership research henceforth.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages120
SupervisorsHans Krause Hansen