Stockholm university

Susanna Alexius

About me

Associate Professor, Business Administration
Director of Research

Mobile: +46 733 24 82 84

Susanna Alexius is associate professor in business administration and research director at Score (Stockholm Center for Organizational Research) at Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics. Alexius is an organization scholar with a broad interest in society and its multitude of organizations. Her research focuses on how different kinds of organizations respond to external expectations, uncertainty and complex missions. Core issues of interest concern the management of value conflicts, the allocation of responsibility and the capability to tackle “grand societal challenges”.

Together with Janet Vähämäki, Alexius is currently engaged in two projects financed by the Swedish Research Council on inter-organizational project relations and responses to uncertainty in development aid. Together with Staffan Furusten and other colleagues, she develops research on collaborative organizing aimed to tackle the climate crisis. Alexius is also highly interested in forms for “hybrid organizing” that takes place in between and across societal sectors (Public enterprises, mutuals, cooperatives and other enterprises owned by civil society organizations).

Alexius teaches students at the Stockholm School of Economics and Stockholm University. She also teaches many executive education courses, foremost aimed towards managers and elected leaders in the public sector and civil society. She is currently the program director of two public sector management programs at the Stockholm School of Economics Executive Education, and also engaged with several leadership programs at the civil society partner organization Ideell Arena.

Dedicated to communicating social science research to practitioners and decision-makers, among other engagements, Alexius is one of the editors of the Swedish journal “Organisation & Samhälle” (“Organization & Society”, She is also frequently engaged outside academia as a popular educator and inspiration speaker devoted to the values of a fruitful dialogue between researchers and practitioners.


Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Hybridorganisering som social innovation: En historisk fallstudie av RFSU

    2022. Susanna Alexius. Social innovation för hållbar utveckling, 53-66


    I tider av gränsöverskridande utmaningar behövs djupare kunskap om organisationsformer för gränsöverskridande samverkan och social innovation. I det här kapitlet studeras hybridorganisering inom ramen för en föreningsägd koncern, som ett innovativt sätt att organisera sådan samverkan. Sedan 1933 har RFSU framgångsrikt kombinerat politisk aktivism i föreningsform, medicinsk vetenskaplig praktik på egen klinik och kommersiellt företagande i sina bolag i en och samma koncern. Sådan höggradig hybriditet kan betraktas som en social innovation i sig. I kapitlet beskrivs hur RFSU:s hybriditet har möjliggjort stora framsteg inom sexual- och familjepolitiken, både i Sverige och internationellt. 

    Genom sin speciella hybrida form har RFSU verkat för frågor relaterade till god hälsa och välbefinnande, långt innan de paketerades som ”mål 3” i Agenda 2030. För att hitta lovande vägar framåt när det gäller social innovation och hållbar utveckling behöver vi lära av historien. Inte minst behöver vi återuppliva kunskap om föregångares organisering och betydelsen av äldre organisationsformer som kan vara högaktuella än idag. 

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  • Social impact through 90 years of Hybrid Organizing: The case of the Swedish Federation for Sexual Education

    2022. Susanna Alexius.


    Through a longitudinal mixed method case study, this paper’s general aim is to contribute to the organizational analysis of the intricate relations and mutual influence between manifold forms of organization involved in tackling grand societal challenges (Alexius and Furusten, 2020; Brès et al 2018; George et al, 2016; Gray and Purdy, 2018; Gümüsay et al, 2022; Kaufmann and Danner-Schröder, 2022). As noted in the call for abstracts, many previous studies have highlighted confusion, contradiction and conflict in organizations with heterogeneous expectations. And among the fewer, more positive studies, a great number are conceptual rather than empirical (Segnestam Larsson and Wollter, 2020). That is to say that in these studies, hybrid or other alternative organizational forms, are treated as promising a priori (Greenwood and Freeman, 2017).

    These insights may make one wonder whether there is solid empirical evidence to suggest that alternative forms of organizing are capable of tackling grand societal challenges. In this paper, drawing on an historical case study, I claim that the Swedish Federation for Sexual Education (RFSU) has potential to qualify as an interesting success case in this regard. An old saying goes: “All good things come in threes”. It all started in the 1930s. Internationally renowned journalist and social activist in sexual education and parental planning, Elise Ottesen Jensen, founded the Swedish Federation for Sexual Education (RFSU) in 1933. Missions like free and legal abortion, an acceptance of homosexuality and sexual education and access to contraceptives for all teenagers, were among those that motivated Ottesen Jensen to set up RFSU (Lennerhed, 2002).

    Ottesen Jensen realized early on that her mission to extend sexual and reproductive rights in society could not be achieved solely on public funding, since the political ideas she and her co-founders (medical doctors and representatives from the workers’ movement) wanted to push were radical. There was a need for own “free cash” able to finance political sexual rights advocacy that in 1930s Sweden was seen as provocative to many.

    From the start, Ottosen Jensen therefore had the idea of an organization made up of three different organizational “bodies” – a nonprofit parent organization for political advocacy and education, a clinic for therapy and treatment and a fully owned limited enterprise (RFSU Limited), producing and selling a product that was closely in line with the core political mission of sexual education and rights: condoms. Although each of the three had their particular institutional conditions, they also shared the same mission and were able to cooperate on their respective fronts, using different means (Lennerhed, 2002; Alexius and Segnestam Larsson, 2019).

    Theoretically then, RFSU may be defined as a constitutional hybrid: an organization that is hybrid by constitution, hence an organization that was established for the explicit purpose of integrating not only different institutional logics but also structural elements typically found in different societal spheres, to fulfill its mission (Alexius et al, 2017; Alexius and Furusten, 2019). Examples of constitutional hybrids include limited enterprises fully owned by the public, cooperatives, mutually owned enterprises and the category of organizations focused in this paper; limited enterprises fully owned by civil society organizations.The paper is a development of a recently published Swedish essay (Alexius, 2022) and describes how the “holy trinity“ of radical political mission, clinical care and own market income, has been at the heart of RFSU and vital to its success during its 90 years in operation for the sexual health and rights in Sweden and abroad. In terms of data, the case study draws on previous historical volumes on RFSU and their founder (Lennerhed, 2002; Lindahl, 2003; Thorgren, 2014), as well as own document studies and 12 interviews conducted 2015-2021 with previous and current RFSU leaders and staff.

    An important conclusion is that the common assumption in previous literature on hybrids, that power asymmetries will lead to mission-drift towards company-ization and marketization, should not be taken for granted. Rather, these processes must be scrutinized empirically using theoretical concepts like that of constitutional hybridity that opens up for recognition of the mutually strengthening mechanisms that have enabled RFSU to tackle grand societal challenges by achieving important social and sexual reforms.


    Alexius, S. (2022). Hybridorganisering som social innovation: En historisk fallstudie av RFSU. I Bonnedahl, K J; Egan Sjölander, A and Lindberg, M. (eds). Social innovation för hållbar utveckling. Lund: Studentlitteratur

    Alexius, S., Gustavsson, M., & Sardiello, T. (2017). Profit-making for mutual benefit: The case of Folksam 1945–2015. Score Working Paper Series, no 2.

    Alexius, S., & Furusten, S. (2019). Exploring Constitutional Hybridity. I Alexius, S & Furusten, S. (eds.) Managing Hybrid Organizations. Palgrave Macmillan, p. 1-26.

    Alexius, S. & Furusten, S. (2020). Enabling Sustainable Transformation: Hybrid Organizations in Early Phases of Path Generation, Journal of Business Ethics, no. 165, p. 547-563.

    Alexius S. & Segnestam Larsson, O. (2019). Market Means to Political Mission Ends: Scrutinizing the Social Meaning of Money in the Swedish Federation for Sexual Education (RFSU), Essay presented at the conference Political Resources: Autonomy, Legitimacy, Power, Södertörn University, Sweden, 17 May, 2019.

    Brès, L, Raufflet, E. & Boghossian, J. (2018). Pluralism in organizations: Learning from unconventional forms of organizations. International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 20, no. 2, p. 364-386.

    George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and Tackling Societal Grand Challenges through Management Research.” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 59, no. 6, p. 1880–1895.

    Gray, B., & Purdy, J. (2018). Collaborating for our future: Multistakeholder partnerships for solving complex problems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Greenwood, M., & Freeman, R. E. (2017). Focusing on ethics and broadening our intellectual base. Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 140, no. 1, p. 1-3.

    Gümüsay, A. A; Marti, E; Trittin-Ulbrich, H. and Wickert, C. (eds), (2022). Organizing for Societal Grand Challenges, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, vol. 79.

    Kaufmann, L J & Danner-Schröder, A. (2022). Adressing Grand Challenges Through Different Forms of Organizing: A Literature Review. In Gümüsay, A. A; Marti, E; Trittin-Ulbrich, H. and Wickert, C. (eds), (2022). Organizing for Societal Grand Challenges, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, vol. 79, p. 163-186.

    Lennerhed, L. (2002). Sex i folkhemmet. RFSUs tidiga historia. Stockholm: Gidlunds förlag.

    Lindahl, K. (2003). Sex – en politisk historia. Stockholm: RFSU/Alfabeta Anamma.

    Segnestam Larsson, O. & Wollter, F. (2020). Vad kännetecknar de organisationer som studeras med hjälp av begreppet hybridorganisation? Score report series 2001:7

    Thorgren, G. (2014). Ottar och kärleken: En biografi. Norstedts förlag.

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  • Att leda komplexa uppdrag

    2021. Susanna Alexius.


    I takt med att pandemins undantagstillstånd övergår i mer normal vardag växer förväntningarna på oss att ta upp tråden igen, i fråga efter fråga som satts på vänt under coronatiden. Agenda 2030, barnperspektivet, arbetsmiljö, utveckling, IT-säkerhet och samverkan tar plats igen tillsammans med så mycket annat. Höga ambitioner, mål och visioner trängs om uppmärksamheten och trots möten från tu till sju är det många som känner sig otillräckliga i detta race. 

    I takt med att att-göra-listan fylls på och tempot trissas upp ser vi hur många ledare - till synes reflexmässigt – kavlar upp ärmarna och tar upp jakten på ”det perfekta systemet”, där allt gott på något mirakulöst sätt ska kunna genomsyra alla delar av verksamheten. Det är synd när denna speciella tid borde erbjuda ett gyllene tillfälle att stanna upp och fundera på förutsättningarna för ett mer situationsanpassat och inte minst hållbart ledarskap.

    Det finns en otålighet i vår kultur och en övertro på smidiga och enkla lösningar. I Susanna Alexius bok Att leda komplexa uppdrag, synar hon orealistisk förhärskande ledarskapsideal som riskerar att bryta sönder ambitiösa ledare. Med grund i organisationsforskning och genom många exempel från samtida organisationer visar Alexius att allt gott omöjligt kan genomsyra allt, och att vad som är ”rätt” i ledarskap och organisering varierar över tid och rum. Så är det bara och det måste vi acceptera och förhålla oss till. 

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  • The Social Meaning of Money in Nonprofit Organizations: A Case Study of Formal and Informal Earmarking of Money

    2021. Ola Segnestam Larsson, Susanna Alexius. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership 11 (3), 1-19


    By studying mechanisms, justifications, and valuations, this article analyzes the social meaning of earmarked money in a nonprofit organization. Focusing on the social meaning of money implies gaining insights into the moral underpinnings and justifications of the origin and generation of money as well as processes by which various streams of money are earmarked. Based on previous literature as well as our own research, we offer two models for understanding and studying processes that earmark and justify the earmarking of money. We illustrate the relevance of these models in a case study of the nonprofit organization IOGT-NTO in Sweden. We conclude the article by presenting key implications for nonprofit leadership and future research, including the recommendation that leaders need to analyze earmarking processes as well as how these processes affect organizations and to what ends money may be used.

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  • Tillitsparadoxen: När fortsatt NPM-styrning främjar tillit

    2021. Susanna Alexius, Janet Vähämäki. Organisation och samhälle : O&S : svensk företagsekonomisk tidskrift (1), 10-15

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  • Enabling Sustainable Transformation: Hybrid Organizations in Early Phases of Path Generation

    2020. Susanna Alexius, Staffan Furusten. Journal of Business Ethics 165 (3), 547-563


    The rapidly growing research on hybrid organizations in recent years suggests that these organizations may have particular abilities to facilitate institutional change. This article contributes to our understanding of change and, in particular, sustainable transformation in society by highlighting the importance of organizational forms. Looking more closely at the role of hybrid organizations in processes of path generation, we analyze the conditions under which hybrid organizations may enable path generation. A retrospective (1988–2017) exploratory case study of the Swedish hybrid organization The Natural Step confirms how hybrids can take part in- and may facilitate the early phases of path generation: assimilation and coalescence. The conclusion drawn is that hybrids have multivocal abilities that enable them to earn trust and authority to open up “neutral” spaces for orientation and connection between actors in separated sub-paths, and that this in turn may ease tensions and trigger dialogue and exchange, also between former opponents. Yet, as also seen in the case, this enabling position of the hybrid may be both fragile and temporary.

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  • In Proper Organization We Trust: Trust in Interorganizational aid relations

    2020. Susanna Alexius, Janet Vähämäki.


    The aim of this study is to contribute to our knowledge of how donors and recipients of aid cope with the uncertain world in which development aid takes place. When and how does trust become a substitute for certainty and what makes donors and recipients of aid actually trust one another? What may explain current trust patterns and what are their implications for the organization of aid? 

    In recent years, management trends associated with New Public Management have been increasingly criticized. As a response to this criticism, in 2016, the Swedish government launched a “Trust Delegation” (Tillitsdelegationen) with interest in “trust based management”, which partly has been seen as a response to the NPM criticism. Even though the development aid sector has not formally been targeted by the Trust commission, it is clear that ideas on trust and alternative management styles have spurred a lot of interest and discussion, also in the aid sector. One of the intentions for this study is to bring empirical input and theoretical nuances to this discussion.

    Relations in the aid field are characterized by three particular coordination conditions: distance, inequality and complexity, which all contribute to perceptions of uncertainty. In an uncertain setting such as that of development aid, trust becomes a precious substitute for the much sought after certainty. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that trust has long been regarded a key component for successful aid projects and a fundamental component for all aid relations, and operations. However, somewhat paradoxically, distance, inequality and complexity also present challenges to interpersonal trust.

    In this report we show that actors involved in aid relations attempt to solve or at least handle their uncertainty by transferring trust from a range of different sources of trust. We argue that a prominent such source of trust is formal organizing following ideal-typical characteristics of what we here call the “proper organization”. Our empirical studies indicate that there is a general ideal for how an actor involved in an aid project should be organized. This ideal emphasizes formal organizing and conformity among different types of organizations and projects, for example conformity stemming from using similar control systems and management technologies.

    We conclude that most often, actors involved in aid relations try to solve the paradox of distance, inequality and complexity by putting their faith in a range of different sources of trust, where a strong – and dare we say – dominating source of trust is trust in formal organizing and organizations, or structures and processes of “proper” organizations, such as certain management technologies or control structures. 

    The three field conditions; distance, inequality and complexity, help to determine not only the need for trust to coordinate aid relations, but also how trust is assessed, maintained, at times lost and then hopefully restored. Our analysis suggests that the greater the distance, inequality and complexity – the lower the chances are to achieving certainty, which in turn implies a greater need for trust to bridge this gap. However – and somewhat paradoxically: our data also suggests that the greater the distance, inequality and complexity, the more likely is trust transference from an impersonal source of trust, such as a management technology or a particular legitimate organizational structure or process.

    The core of our analysis concerns who trusts whom on what grounds, that is “What makes a certain trustor in the aid field trust a certain trustee?” What are preferred sources of trust and how are they used to transfer trust onto trustees? What general patterns of trust can we identify and how may these be explained? We examine the following key questions: 

    1.       What makes a donor trust a recipient? What makes a donor not trust a recipient? 

    2.       What makes a recipient trust a donor? What makes a recipient not trust a donor? 

    In our empirical study we are interested in intermediary organizations in so called aid chains (or as we will later claim: aid nets). In these nets of relations, organizations often play dual roles, being both a donor and a recipient of aid, both a rule-follower and a rule-setter, both an auditor and an auditee. In one situation, the organization will play the role of the donor, in another, the role of the recipient of aid. As a recipient, the organization interprets what its needs to do in order to receive further financing. As a donor, it regulates what the next actor in line needs to do in order to obtain financing. Theory as well as empirical data suggest that these social roles and how actors switch between them have an impact on trust patterns in aid. We therefore call for more studies as well as practitioner reflection on these issues. 

    Our research design departs from Sida’s categorization of different actor groups who receive Swedish public aid funding; a) civil society organizations b) private sector actors, c) Swedish authorities in the public sector and d) research cooperation (see The first intermediary in the case organizations studied are thus always located in Sweden, which means that we have been able to keep the aid providing country a constant variable (Sweden, a high trust country). Thereby we have also been able to study whether there are any differences in how trust is experienced inbetween the different actor groups, since the four groups formally have the same amount of rules and requirements. The actor groups represent different institutional contexts in society; public sector, market and civil society, all with different organisational forms, owners, purpose, stakeholders and sources of financing.

    In our empirical study we have thus departed from the organizations based in Sweden, implying that the majority of our illustrative examples are taken from such Sweden based organisations. As a second step however, we have also studied whether and how the empirical findings are applicable in a few intermediary organizations acting as both donors and recipients in the aid net, i.e. the empirical material covers intermediary organizations from the Ministry of Forein Affairs to final recipients of aid. Interestingly, despite differences in origin, size etc. we have found the social role scipts of the donor and recipient to apply and to be interepreted in a similar fashion by the organizations studied.

    Providing “food for thought” on how trust influences aid, the study draws upon theory as well as illustrative examples from case studies (including ongoing case studies) in the four actor groups. However, the report makes no claims to give a fully representative picture of every donor and recipient involved in the aid nets in development aid. We do however earnestly believe that the propositions and tentative findings put forth here are well-worth considering. We also welcome further testing and elaboration of our tentative findings by both researchers and practitioners in the field. The reader should bear in mind that exploring to generate promising hypotheses, as we do in this report, is not the same as designing exloratory studies to test such hypotheses on a larger sample. Needless to say though, without exploratory research of this kind, there would be far less interesting hypotheses around to test and elaborate further.

    Empirical findings on sources of trustWe discuss seven sources of trust in aid relations: control systems and management technologies; external experts and expertise; the VIP-partner status; the institutional context; thematic and domain specific knowledge; results and interpersonal relations. The sources of trust have been mentioned by the interviewees in our case studies. Our main findings concerning these are listed below: 

    Control systems and management technologiesOur empirical cases demonstrate that control systems such as the management technology The Logical Framework, is a prominent source of trust from which donors frequently transfer trust onto recipients of aid. 

    First, we have found that being without such a system or technology is generally not a viable option for a recipient, since not having one would affect the recipient’s assessed trustworthiness negatively. Having and using a management technology is generally seen as a sign that the recipient is a rational decision maker, a core characteristic of a “proper organization”. 

    Second, we have noted that there has in several cases been a discrepancy between an organization’s formal decision to trust (or not) and the informal trustworthiness assessments made by individual employees of the same organization. 

    Third, we have found that different social roles (donor or recipient) may explain differences in the perception of a certain control technology. Despite recent calls for simplification and less of control exercise, the tendency seems to be that this is not happening, since the intermediary organizations act according to different social scripts in their roles as donors and recipients. While happy to drop and criticize control measures in the role of the recipient, the same organization may perceive the same control measures as very reasonable, necessary and also expected in the role of the donors. 

    Fourth, in some of the case studies, we have seen that trust in a control system or a management technology has developed over time. A recipient organization might thus both learn to use the technology and find it beneficial, for example to gain legitimacy and trustworthiness from the donor.

    External experts and expertise Experts and expert knowledge play a crucial part in many aid relations and to demonstrate expertise is a means for the recipient organization to demonstrate its ability. 

    First, we have found that recipients and donors have different perceptions in regard to the value of third parties. While hiring of third parties may be considered necessary and trust enhancing by the donor, the recipients of aid may consider these third party involvements as signs of distrust. 

    Second, we have seen indications that since external experts are carriers of historical data this may give them influence over the agenda. This means that, with expert involvement, the agenda of the “proper organization” might have been driven tighter than donors perhaps otherwise would have called for. 

    Third, we have found that recipients appreciate analyses from experts that are knowledgeable about the recipients’ local context and domain specificities. However, a perception among several of the recipients studied is that such more specialized experts are being outnumbered by more general management experts.

    Selected partners (“VIP-partners”)Organizations that act in the donor role may attempt to reduce the risks and uncertainties involved in assessing recipients by selecting and shaping some so called “VIP partners” into having certain (often similar) qualities, structures, processes etc. An acquired VIP- status often implies less control from the donor. 

    The rationale for creating VIP partners may be integrity on the part of the donor – treating all potential recipients equally. Another interpretation is the donor’s wish to draw on the market mechanism of competition and take on the role of the independent and distant buyer that is not embedded in any problematically close relationships with the recipient representatives. A third interpretation could be that this is done due to the large number of actors in the development aid field, the disbursement pressure, and that VIP-partners are considered able to channel aid funds quicker and more effectively. A fourth is that this is done with the rationale or the felt need to transfer risks to selected trusted intermediary partners. 

    First, we have found that the requirements for a VIP-status tend to benefit large and already financially strong organisations. Smaller organizations that do not have resources to invest in this process tend to fall out. 

    Second, despite ambitions to treat organizations equally, we have found that the VIP selection process looks a bit different depending on the actor group. For example, while “VIPs” among public agencies are mainly selected by the MFA, and where a VIP status signifies to receive aid funds directly in their budget, civil society organizations are to compete to become so called Strategic Partner Organisation’s. 

    Third, we find that a potential downside of the VIP partner status is that it may contribute further to isomorphism (taking on similar form) on the part of recipient organizations. This contradicts with the ambitions that different institutional specificities should be supported and maintained. 

    The institutional contextThe diversity amongst the four actor groups studied (the agency, the company, the association and the university) is commonly described as a key to successful aid. However, our overarching finding on this theme is an underlying conflict in the field concerning the degree to which this diversity should be respected, and how. 

    First, despite general control systems, management technologies, structures and processes spreading across the wider aid field, different money norms (still) apply to recipients of different legal forms. The different money norms are based on different aims for the actor groups. For instance, the norm for civil society organisations is that aid money should leave the Swedish organization and to the extent possible be handed over to the final recipients. For support through Swedish agencies the money norm is different. Money should to a large extent stay in Sweden as it is used for exporting Swedish competence or domain specific knowledge to developing countries.

    Second, there exist differences inbetween the actor groups’ in terms of their dependency on the donor. Civil society organizations are for example often more dependent on aid funds than private companies. This has implications for trust patterns. Dependency may call for trust due to the increased uncertainty. But dependency may also be misinterpreted as trust by the counterparty. Highly dependent recipients may distrust donors and still keep up the relation as best they can, for fear of going “out of business”.

    Thematic and domain specific knowledge Underlying the official organization of the aid field are assumptions that that specific recipient domains (such as those of universities, agencies, unions and car companies) should be respected and protected for their different kinds of thematic or domain specific knowledge and the value these bring to aid in general. However, on the contrary from what this assumption suggests, we have found that organizations acting in the donor role tend not to appreciate and trust in domain specific expertise, at least not to the same degree as they trust in general management expertise. 

    ResultsResults, and how aid funds contribute to long term outcomes and impact, are frequently talked about as the primary factor that determines and steers actions. 

    First, we have found that outcome information, which tends to be more complex, may be toned down or even ignored in processes of trustworthiness assessment. Complex results information may confuse rather than qualify and hence will not result in a higher trust assessment from a donor.

    Second, in line with neoinstitional theory, results technologies are often used as “approximations” for actual outcomes and effects. Having the technology in place is then interpreted as a result in itself and simply having the technology in place may then grant the organization legitimacy as well as a higher trustworthiness assessment.

    Third, there are difference in “results cultures” between the institutional contexts that may give rise to misunderstandings and a lower level of trust in the relation (for example, a meeting may not be considered a result in a corporate context, but may well be seen as a prominent result in a civil society context). 

    Interpersonal relations Interpersonal relations often function as sources of trust in aid practice, however, they are officially seen as insufficient and not looked upon as “prominent” enough. 

    First, we have found a tendency to officially “hide” or downplay interpersonal relations as sources of trust despite the fact that in parallel with the interorganizational relationships, there are typically several interpersonal relationships between key employees at the donor and recipient organization. 

    Second, we have seen that donors seldom mention interpersonal relations and key individuals as sources of trust. The reason for this could be a fear of individual sources contributing to corruption or nepotism. 

    Third, it seems that the closer a donor gets is to the final recipient, the more value is placed in key individuals and interpersonal relationships as prominent sources of trust. 

    Fourth, long lasting personal relations may be more likely to create conditions for continued trust-building and trust maintenance.

    When comparing how organizations in the donor and recipient roles assess trust, we find that the trust patterns are different for the two main roles (that all of our studied case organizations alternate between). Whilst donors willingly transfer trust from control systems and management technologies, external experts (in general management) and the VIP status, these are also seen as sources of trust by the recipients, but not to the same degree. 

    In contrast, whilst recipients expect their trustworthiness to be largely based on their institutional context and domain specific knowledge and experience and more complex results, donors do not see these as prominent (enough) sources of trust. Both parties find interpersonal relations to be an insufficient source of trust that needs to be complemented with other sources.

    General conclusions The social roles of donor or recipient contribute to define perceptions of control or trust. We argue that it is not the case that a certain control technology per se always increases or decreases perceptions of trust in the relation, but that its perception depends on from who’s perspective and what role one looks. In our studied cases, we have found that organizations, in their role as recipient, often perceive that they need less control technologies and oversight, while when they act in the role of a donor, they wish to add on more control measures and oversight. This means that control measures and oversight tend to increase in the aid chains, from the donor on the top of the aid chain to the final recipients. Control may then give rise to even more control. 

    However, since the organizations, in their different roles, experience control differently, increasing oversight, control technologies and measurements do not always lead to a decrease in trust, as often suggested in popular debate. 

    Depending on the role (donor or a recipient) but also the specific experience within the organization, the same kind and amount of control technologies may be perceived as welcome or unwelcome, necessary or unnecessary, trust enhancing or as trust deteriorating. While an organization in the recipient role may perceive it as hindering work, organizations in the donor role may perceive that the control technologies support work and role-fulfillment. Recipients who are more dependent on aid funds and who do not have resources to handle too many control technologies seem to find it more difficult to perceive control techonologies as trust enhancing and supporting. 

    What contributes greatly to explaining how control technologies are perceived is whether they are introduced with or without explanation on the purpose they serve. Therefore, a self-reflexive dialogue and understanding of how the donor and recipient roles influence decision making is suggested to add valuable learning. 

    Trust cannot be mandated; trust has to be earned. The idea of “Trust Based Management”, if applied and understood in narrow terms as a mandate coming from the top, is not feasible. Our cases show clearly that trust is something experienced at the individual level, and when the individual trust assessment goes against that made at an organizational or systems level, the individual will likely hang on to its own assessment (hence to the sources of trust he/she believes in). For example, whenever a donor takes a formal decision to trust a certatin recipient, we must expect and look out for possible deviation where individual representatives of the donor organization do not in fact perceive trust and hence take their chances at double agency – that is letting their own decisions and actions depart from a hierarchical decision or order.

    We suggest that organizations in the aid field would benefit from acknowledging the actual impact that interpersonal relations (including more informal ones) have on trust assessments in the field. 

    Watch out for conflicting ideals – diversity and conformity ideals may collide. We have found a potential conflict between the ideal of good results stemming from encouraging a diversity amongst actors (actors from different institutional domains, operating in domain specific ways) and the ideal of good results stemming from conformity (actors from different institutional domains, operating in a similar way, shaped by general management knowledge). We suggest that recognising and discussing the conflict that the diversity and conformity ideals may give rise to is important to get an understanding of all the different kinds of results that are being produced. As a core finding – trust in “proper organization” characteristics is found to act as an uncritical yet prominent approximation of future results. We suggest that putting more emphasis on domain-specific conditions and expertise is a fruitful path forward.

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  • A chain of gold? A comparative study on intermediaries, trust and control in complex global aid chains

    2019. Susanna Alexius, Janet Vähämäki.


    In this paper, we aim for a better understanding of the roles of intermediaries in complex anduncertain contexts. The quest for faith and certainty is constantly pressing the actors in thepoliticized global field of development aid. Operating on the taxpayers’ money and faced withconditions which render knowledge of previous results and prediction of future results a realchallenge, what do they do? To what extent and how are results extrapolated from the use oforganizational structures and management technologies? To what extent and how are resultsrather extrapolated from interpersonal and interorganizational trust? How are the two related?We explore these research questions empirically in a comparative study of two “aid chains”consisting of numerous organizations interlinked in the coordination and operations of aidprojects (in this case aimed for capacity building in unions and universities in the globalsouth). Intermediaries are often criticized for adding “unnecessary” transaction costs to aidprojects. Based on our preliminary findings, we suggest that the understanding of theintermediary and its roles should be reconsidered. Analyzing the messiness and dynamics ofhow intermediaries handle trust and control opens up for a more nuanced understanding, notonly of the roles played by intermediaries but also of how complex systems are coordinated.

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  • A chain of gold? A comparative study on intermediaries, trust and control in complex global aid chains

    2019. Susanna Alexius, Janet Vähämäki.


    In this paper, we aim for a better understanding of the roles of intermediaries in complex and uncertain contexts. The quest for faith and certainty is constantly pressing the actors in the politicized global field of development aid. Operating on the taxpayers’ money and faced with conditions which render knowledge of previous results and prediction of future results a real challenge, what do they do? To what extent and how are results extrapolated from the use of organizational structures and management technologies? To what extent and how are results rather extrapolated from interpersonal and interorganizational trust? How are the two related? We explore these research questions empirically in a comparative study of two “aid chains” consisting of numerous organizations interlinked in the coordination and operations of aid projects (in this case aimed for capacity building in unions and universities in the global south). Intermediaries are often criticized for adding “unnecessary” transaction costs to aid projects. Based on our preliminary findings, we suggest that the understanding of the intermediary and its roles should be reconsidered. Analyzing the messiness and dynamics of how intermediaries handle trust and control opens up for a more nuanced understanding, not only of the roles played by intermediaries but also of how complex systems are coordinated.

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  • Exploring Constitutional Hybridity

    2019. Susanna Alexius, Staffan Furusten. Managing Hybrid Organizations, 1-25


    Hybrid organizations are topical in contemporary society, and literature in this area is growing. One neglected dimension is, however, empirically based theorizations of management and governance in hybrid organizations. Moreover, the literature tends to be based on observations of “new” forms of hybrid organizations, often referred to as social enterprises. We argue that if we want to learn about what managing hybrid organizations means, it is important to compare different types of hybrids and also to compare hybrids with as long history with those established relatively recently. Based on earlier literature, hybrid organizations are discussed as placed in contexts of institutional pluralism, at the cross-roads between institutional orders and institutional logics. Special focus is placed on exploration and comparison of what is defined here as constitutional hybrid organizations, thus hybrid organizations founded with the explicit purpose of fulfilling their mission by integrating either different institutional orders such as the market, the public sector and civil society or structural traits from the logics of different ideal-typical organizations such as the business corporation, the public agency and the association. We argue that multivocality is a concept that can explain why some hybrid organizations manage to remain hybrids over time while others face de-hybridization. A common analytical frame for the volume is developed, where six dimensions of hybridity are defined (institutional order, logics of organizational forms, ownership structures, purpose, main stakeholders and main sources of funding). The aim of this chapter is to introduce why it is timely to theorize on management and governance in hybrid organizations, to develop the theoretical frame for the book, and to introduce the explorative multidisciplinary approach behind the book and the selection of cases. The chapter ends with a brief discussion of the chapters to come.

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  • Governance Structures in Customer-owned Hybryd Organizations: Interpreting Democracy in Mutual Insurance Companies

    2019. Tiziana Sardiello, Alexius Susanna, Staffan Furusten. Managing Hybrid Organizations


    This chapter focuses on governance challenges in mutually owned insurance companies. We analyze the variation in how hybrids organize themselves and discuss why mechanism for institutionalization is not always in place. A comparative approach was chosen to study how democracy is expressed and the ownership governance system is organized in two Swedish insurance companies with a long history, where Folksam was always a mutual and Skandia only recently became a mutual. Departing from Stinchcombe's imprinting theory, the findings suggest that institutional conditions at the time of their establishment as mutuals may have imprinted governance practices in these mutuals that persist beyond the founding phase.

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  • Having it Both Ways: Managing Contested Market Money in a Civil Society Organization

    2019. Ola Segnestam Larsson, Susanna Alexius. Managing Hybrid Organizations, 95-108


    This chapter deals with the general issue of how hybridity in general and contested money in particular can be managed by hybrid organizations. The authors draw on a longitudinal case study of IOGT-NTO, a Swedish temperance association that raises most of its income through its own market-based lottery. Weighing the benefits of controlling the lottery against the legitimacy risks of being responsible for its operations (in light of risks of gambling addition), IOGT-NTO portrays the lottery as an actor, an organization of its own. However, in reality, the lottery is a department in the association. Following this strategy, the organization seeks to have it both ways.

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  • Hybrid Challenges in Times of Changing Institutional Conditions: The Rise and Fall of The Natural Step as a Multivocal Bridge Builder

    2019. Susanna Alexius, Staffan Furusten. Managing Hybrid Organizations, 267-285


    This chapter reports on a life story of a hybrid organization, The Natural Step (TNS), that was founded in order to foster sustainability in society as a necessary philosophy for saving the planet. The organization was established as a hybrid that blended the logics of science, activism and consulting. Staying in this position was, however, not without challenge. The chapter contributes to discussions on management in hybrid organizations by highlighting when and why hybrids face particular challenges and how managers may struggle to deal with them. Over time, TNS gradually became de-hybridized into a management consultancy. The chapter concludes with a section on dilemmas faced by hybrid managers in cultivating and maintaining a hybrid identity over longer periods of time.

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  • Managing Hybrid Organizations

    2019. Staffan Furusten, Susanna Alexius. Managing Hybrid Organizations, 333-360


    In this final chapter, we summarize and develop core findings that are illustrated with examples from the empirical case studies of the volume. Three common dilemmas in managing hybrid organization are identified: (1) financing a social mission and the risk of mission drift, (2) overlap in the roles of key stakeholders and the risk of empty governance structures and (3) modernizing a hybrid while cherishing the constitutional hybrid legacy. We argue that organizations that manage to remain hybrids in times of changed institutional conditions have established multivocality, a state where different categories of stakeholders are involved in shared, although sometimes parallel, conversations. The chapter concludes that a state of multivocal conversations can be strengthened by managerial and governance skills in improvisations and versatility.

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  • Managing Hybrid Organizations: Governance, Professionalism and Regulation

    2019. .

    Book (ed)

    A much-needed addition to literature, this timely edited collection aims to provide clarity and understanding on how modern organizations work. The authors explore the characteristics of hybrid organizations in contemporary society, taking into account the complex societal challenges that face businesses today. Arguing that hybrid organizations are in fact not a new phenomenon, this thought-provoking collection goes beyond existing research and re-evaluates our traditional understanding of this concept. Scholars of organization, management and innovation will find this book an insightful read, as it sheds light on the fundamental aspects that shape today’s hybrid organizations. 

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  • Market Means to Political Mission Ends: Scrutinizing the Social Meaning of Moneyin the Swedish Federation for Sexual Education (RFSU)

    2019. Susanna Alexius, Ola Segnestam Larsson.


    In the nonprofit debate, there is an assumption that market means lead to market ends, oftentimes with grim consequences for nonprofit organizations. By drawing on a theoretical framework related to the social meaning of money in hybrid organizations, and by applying the framework to a longitudinal mixedmethod single case study ofmoneymanagement in the Swedish Federation for Sexual Education (RFSU), we argue in this paper instead that management of market means may also promote political mission ends. Empirical findings suggest that there are different social currencies at play that help explain why some money (income of a lower perceived social status) may be used by the organization simply as a means to get access to higher status money (and the legitimacy that comes with it). Hence, contrary to common assumptions of mission-drift as a consequence of market means, in this case study, business dividends and royalties commercially generated in fully owned subsidiaries have been informally and formally earmarked as lower status money and then used as means to secure higher status political mission ends.

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  • Time for trust? Post-New Public Management reforms in the Swedish social services

    2019. Tiziana Sardiello, Susanna Alexius.


    In recent years, the criticism of New Public Management (NPM) and its modes of management and governance has increased. As always when a ‘management fashion’ (Røvik, 2008) has been put to the test for some time in actual complex organizational practices, its’ downsides and problems appear. As demonstrated by reform scholars (Brunsson and Olsen, 1993; Røvik, 2008) fundamental ‘wicked problems’ (Rittel and Webber, 1973) such as that of the balance between centralization and decentralization and the question of how to prioritize and evaluate complex missions in the public administration, are always sensitive to new solutions. This is because they are, in a sense, unsolvable by nature (Brunsson, 2006). From this perspective, the current times may be seen as a formative ‘critical juncture’ (Djélic and Quack, 2007), in which it is expected that many will express the desire to leave the old (and now disappointing) management fashion (i.e. NPM) behind and open up for new and promising modes of public management and governance (Ivarsson Westerberg, 2017).

    This paper draws on an in-depth case study (Alexius and Sardiello, 2018) of attempts by a Swedish municipality to explore post-NPM modes of ‘trust-based management’ in its Social Services operations (e.g. Bouckaert, 2012; Bentzen and Jagd, 2014; Curry, 2014; Bringselius ed, 2018). 

    A first central conclusion of our paper is that it takes time to develop trust-based relationships. Building and maintaining trustful relationships require time both in the sense of endurance – to acquire the appropriate knowledge, such as for example coaching skills (Sardiello 2018) - and in the sense of accessibility in everyday work life - to make oneself psychologically and physically available for informal coordination with others (Alexius and Sardiello 2018).

    Regarding governance and culture, we found that the municipality of Borlänge has made a parallel governance and culture change in the last decade from distrust to increased trust. First and foremost, in the early days of the reform, politicians and senior managers were engaged in closer collaboration than ever before, which fostered trust. In recent years, relationships within the administration, among managers as well as between managers and co-workers have been in focus for the reform. Organizational core-values have also been successfully internalized and are extensively used in everyday interactions by co-workers at all levels.

    Regarding organization and working methods, we found interesting differences in how different staff groups perceive the ongoing reform towards more trustful relationships. These differences may be understood with reference to the degree of professional self-confidence and experience, and with reference to whether the individual has managerial responsibility or not. Time for dialogue and ability to improvise with judgement in light of given roles were two highlighted key conditions to develop and cherish trust-based relationships. In this sense we found Borlänge municipality has succeeded in relieving their first level social workers but a remaining challenge is staff turnover that often does not leave these officers enough time for supervision or coaching.

    Empirical evidence from our studies also shows that the unit managers have to bear a heavy administrative burden of sediments from previous reforms, and that this burden reduces their time for a more coaching leadership. A future challenge for the municipality will be to motivate and relieve the unit managers. A solution that has been tried so far, but has been insufficient, has been to create assistant roles and various staff functions. However this has been insufficient mainly because of the unclear division of labor and responsibility among these different positions, implying a waste of time in terms of coordination (Alexius and Sardiello, 2018).

    Despite the fact that the municipality's trust reform emphasizes decentralization, it requires the recruitment and formation of competent and responsible street-level bureaucrats who are willing and are put in the conditions to stay and take part in the committed interplay (Velten et al 2017). Clarifying the division of labor and responsibility between them and their managers and informing them (not only their managers) about the new coaching philosophy would save time in the already time-consuming work of building and maintaining more trustful relationships in the public administration.

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  • Topical but not new: What can we learn from older forms for sharing economy?

    2019. Staffan Furusten, Susanna Alexius.


    The contemporary discourse about the sharing economy is both hyped and full of hope for a more sustainable future, but what is it that actually is shared? How much sharing is actually taking place, and in what dimensions and how can systems for sharing be governed? These questions are discussed in this paper and we compare the contemporary sharing economy discourse with old and since long established organized systems for sharing, here exemplified by constitutional hybrid organizations, thus organizations established with a purpose of mutual sharing in dimensions such as responsibility, power, surplus and risk. It is discussed that the contemporary sharing economy discourse mainly focus on collaborative consumption while constitutional hybridity is a more genuine form of organized mutuality. It is concluded that in both systems for sharing there seem to be empty governance structures. In the sharing economy it is mainly a market logic that dominates, where others than the consumers own what is shared. In constitutional hybridity the consumers are also owners, but it seems as they are either not aware of their ownership responsibilities and formal governance duties, or they are not really interested in taking such responsibilities. So, although there are existing and technically functioning systems for governance of systems for sharing, the practice of governance follows other logics, which calls for more research on governance in systems for sharing.

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  • 'The Most Regulated Deregulated Market in the World'? Sellers Organizing across Markets

    2018. Susanna Alexius. Organizing and Reorganizing Markets


    Markets are intertwined. If a certain market is perceived as being unorganized or inappropriately organized for neighbouring markets, sellers or buyers in those adjacent markets may step in as organizers. In this chapter, I use the case of the Swedish taxi market as it developed from around 1990 until 2015 to demonstrate how hotel companies and owners of travel terminals haveassumed organizer roles in the taxi transport market. This account is based on a qualitative analysis of three cases of participant observation and eight interviews with key stakeholders. The interviews and the first two observations were conducted in the autumn of 2013, and one additional observation was conducted in the spring of 2015. In addition, the chapter is informed by a broad base of documents: previous research, industry reports and company policies, newspaper articles, and public reports.

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  • Att organisera lite eller mycket, för en kväll eller för alltid? En organisationsteoretisk belysning av integrationsinitiativ

    2018. Susanna Alexius, Tiziana Sardiello.


    Den här studien syftar till en fördjupad förståelse för integration av nyanlända genom en sociologisk och organisationsteoretisk analys av utvalda integrationsinitiativ i Flens kommun. Två dimensioner graden av organisation (teori om partiell organisation) och typen av temporalitet (kronologisk respektive kvalitativ tidsuppfattning), har varit huvudspår i analysen av tre initiativ: Språkvän, Flen Världsorkester och Fester. De empiriska redogörelser som presenteras för att illustrera våra teoretiska resonemang vilar på insikter från intervjuer, dokumentstudier samt informella samtal i samband med studiebesök och deltagande observationer i Flen under hösten 2017- hösten 2018. Alla sätt att organisera har sina fördelar och nackdelar. Att sträva efter långsiktig och höggradig organisation har sina fördelar – men också sina nackdelar. Vår främsta slutsats är att det idag verkar finnas för lite insikt och diskussion om detta och om möjligheten att medvetet och strategiskt uppmuntra till en ”portfölj” av initiativ med varierande grader av organisation och temporalitet. Rapporten berör också förutsättningar för integrationsstrateger, integrationssamordnare och andra liknande formella positioner i offentlig sektor. Särskilt intresse riktas mot dessa gräsrotsbyråkraters förutsättningar att vara de ”möjliggörande byråkrater” som civilsamhällets ”eldsjälar” lovordar.

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  • Decoupling in the age of market-embedded morality: responsible gambling in a hybrid organization

    2018. Susanna Alexius, Giuseppe Grossi. Journal of Management and Governance 22 (2), 285-313


    This paper contributes to the understanding of hybrid organizations by refining the concept of decoupling as a strategic response to conflicting objectives and institutional expectations (Meyer and Rowan in Am J Soc 83:340–363, 1977). In today’s popular responsibility discourse one notes a hopeful “win–win” ideal that invites attempts, by companies in particular, to realize and balance conflicting values and to strive to fulfil both profit objectives and responsibility objectives. Although institutional theory has long acknowledged the strategic response of decoupling in organizational contexts, the potential of exploring and refining how this concept may be used to analyse strategic responses in the contemporary era of market-embedded morality has yet to be explored (Shamir in Econ Soc 37:1–19, 2008). There are good reasons to do so as the present-day discourse on the relation between the economy and morality offers a new set of options and challenges for legitimately responding to institutional demands. This paper draws on an explanatory, rich ethnographic and longitudinal case study of a Swedish fully state-owned company operating in the post 1990s gambling market. We suggest that contemporary hybrid organizations positioned at the crossroads of bureaucratic and market schemes of organizing, may find themselves in a particularly tight spot and seek legitimacy by decoupling—not only by adopting certain legitimizing structures, but also and increasingly with reference to market-embedded morality, a commoditizing of responsibility in their contested market setting. Based on the case findings, we suggest a distinction between organization-based decoupling and market-based decoupling and propose that market-based decoupling may be attractive to hybrid organizations owing to it being less sensitive to scrutiny and accountability claims. But at the same time, our findings indicate that market-based decoupling poses a risk to hybrid organizations, as it does not offer the same degree of legitimacy with key stakeholders/the general public as organization-based decoupling does.

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  • Förpliktigande samspel som vardagsrutin – en fallstudie av Borlänge kommun

    2018. Susanna Alexius, Tiziana Sardiello. Styra och leda med tillit: forskning och praktik, 167-195


    Förändringsarbetet mot mer tillitsfulla relationer i den kommunala förvaltningen i Borlänge initierades 2008 och pågår fortfarande aktivt ett decennium senare. Studien belyser centrala förutsättningar för att bygga och underhålla tillitsfulla relationer inom den kommunala förvaltningen. Teoretiska utgångspunkter är dels teori om medarbetarskap och ömsesidigt ansvar genom ”förpliktigande samspel”, dels teori om förändringsarbete som vardagsrutin. Metodologiskt har dokumentstudier, deltagande observationer, intervjuer och fokusgruppsintervjuer genomförts. En fördjupning har gjorts till upplevelser hos personalen på Individ- och familjeomsorgen (IFO) inom socialtjänsten. En central slutsats är att tillitsfulla relationer tar tid, både att utveckla och att underhålla. Ambitionen att minska misstro och öka tillit kräver både uthållighet i en kultur- och organisationsförändring över tid och en mellanmänsklig tillgänglighet i vardagen. I Borlänge har ett framgångsrikt värdegrundsarbete skapat goda förutsättningar för detta.

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  • Logics and mechanisms of board appointment in hybrid organizations

    2018. Susanna Alexius, Jenny Cisneros Örnberg, Giuseppe Grossi.


    The relevance of the paper to the panel topic 

    The management and governance of hybrid organizations involve a range of challenges and critical issues. One such issue concerns the people that embody the hybrid and their capabilities to represent and handle the complex missions and potential value conflicts at stake in a hybrid organization. Looking closer at processes of recruitment and nomination of key actors such as CFOs, managers and board members is relevant as it sheds light on high held ideals for hybrid management and governance and the human resources seen fit to handle complex hybrid missions.

    The significance of the research (why it is distinctive and its contribution to the field)

    Our case gives a micro illustration of the governance challenges involved in attempts to design the nomination process to reflect a wider range of goals and values. We also wish to briefly discuss how this shift in appointment logics – from “political discretion” (PA), over “professionalism as in efficiency and economization” (NPM) to “political correctness” (NPG) may affect the boards and management of the SOEs.

    The research question(s) and method

    The Swedish state has an outspoken aim to be an “active and professional” owner by generating economic value in its 49 state-owned enterprises. At the same time, there is a political ambition for these firms to be seen as national and international “role models”, in the forefront of gender equality and sustainability. In addition, for about 25 SOEs, there are specifically Government commissioned social “public policy assignments” to be taken into consideration. The aim of this paper is to analyse the logics (political vs. professional) in the Swedish Government offices concerning the mechanisms of appointment of board members of Swedish State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) with Government commissioned social public policy assignments.

    Findings are based on qualitative analyses of documents, observations and interviews with key actors. Focusing foremost on the daily work of civil servants responsible for board nomination in the Ministry of Commerce and Innovation the study also acknowledges the role of external head hunters and executive search firms, politically appointed civil servants, politicians and board chairs and members in the nomination process.

    The theoretical/conceptual foundations for the research

    The backdrop to our case story is the historical transition from traditional Public Administration (PA), over new public management (NPM) regimes to the emerging post-NPM era of “New Public Governance” (Osborne, 2010; Almqvist et al., 2003; Ivarsson Westernberg, 2017), their dominant institutional logics and the effects on the appointment of public representatives, such as board members of SOEs.

    The results to be reported

    Our claim is that in the emerging NPG era, the previously dominating professional (and typically economical) logic of NPM-inspired governance of State-owned enterprises is challenged. Public appointment officials now face increasing external pressure to demonstrate that the multiple social values at stake for the hybrid organizations are reflected in the nomination of their board members, without compromising business efficiency, public accountability and the public income derived from SOEs.

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  • Shaping the Consumer: A Century of Consumer Guidance

    2018. Susanna Alexius, Leina Löwenberg. Organizing and Reorganizing Markets


    Although market organization is typically directed at organizations, it is common to legitimize it with reference to individuals. Because clever and active consumers constitute an often-assumed precondition for well functioning markets, there is much ado about maintaining this ideal. Thus reorganization aimed at increased competition and a greater supply of goods is encouraged, because the consumer is assumed to have free choice—to be willing and able, when faced with a range of options, to decide what to buy and from whom tobuy it. To date, the hopes of maintaining the fragile pipe dream of the clever and active consumer, so fundamental to much of market organization, has taken little advice from scholars demonstrating that real individuals lack the capacity to anticipate all possible options and evaluate all available information (Simon 1982; March and Simon 1958). As this chapter demonstrates,however, the discrepancy between these highly held ideals and humbler human capacities is contributing to a broad range of organizations engaging in efforts to shape ‘proper consumers’. Through a chronological historical account of a century of these efforts (c.1900–2015), we provide insights into the development of consumer guidance in Sweden. Beginning in 1900, pioneering attempts at shaping proper consumers targeted members of established organizations and offered basic knowledge on ways to save money and make informed choices between product categories—not to spend one’s daily wages on alcohol, for example, but to save and invest in a new harrow. In the state-centred, post-WWII period, beginning in the mid-1940s, there were increased standards and monitoring aimed at guiding consumers to choose not only between but also within product categories—how to calculate the price/quality ratio of different kinds of hosiery, for example. This era also saw the establishment of many specialized organizations aimed at consumer guidance. The contemporary global era, beginning in the 1990s, has seen a sharp increase in standards, labels, and consumer guidance. In the late 1990s, a third and somewhat unexpected type of advice went a step beyond the choice among and within product categories to provide advice among consumer guides. We offer a wide range of empirical examples of consumer guidance, organizedby such diverse market organizers as agricultural societies, savings banks, cooperatives, municipalities, government agencies, businesses, and bloggers. The content of the advice is analysed and, most important for this volume, we exemplify the range of market elements and information and technology usedby those engaged in the task of upholding the fragile construction of the active and clever consumer. Our account is based on three sets of empirical data collected primarily in 2012: (a) relevant secondary data from historical research and (b) our qualitative content analyses of historical and contemporary materials related to Swedish consumer guidance, such as stakeholder documents and information made publicly available through archives and the media. In addition, (c) three key informant interviews contributed to our general understanding of the contemporary Swedish field of consumer guidance (Alexius and Löwenberg 2012). In all, we see an overwhelming number of attempts to shape consumers during a period of more than one hundred years.

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  • As flies around goodies: The rise of experts and services in the emerging field of CSR and sustainability

    2017. Susanna Alexius, Staffan Furusten, Andreas Werr. The Organization of the Expert Society

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  • Assigning responsibility for gambling-related harm: scrutinizing processes of direct and indirect consumer responsibilization of gamblers in Sweden

    2017. Susanna Alexius. Addiction Research and Theory 25 (6), 462-475


    This study is an inquiry into how actors in the Swedish gambling industry, gambling problem prevention and support structures articulate responsibility for the problems that arise from gambling. A main point made in the study is that responsibility for the gambling-related harm is actively constructed and reproduced in a hegemonic way that situates the main responsibility for the emergence and handling of gambling-related harm on the individual gambler and that relies heavily on the individual's capacity to control and adjust his/her consumption to prevent gambling related harm. Drawing on extensive ethnographical fieldwork on responsible gambling practices in the Swedish context, the author brings attention to the often-unproblematized view of contemporary responsible gambling measures, and the need to develop a self-reflexive critical analysis of the ways in which responsibility is divided and assigned in this politicized market and wider policy field. As a conceptual contribution, an analytical distinction is suggested between measures of direct responsibilization (teaching and training gamblers to be responsible) and measures of indirect responsibilization (teaching and training intermediaries in the market, such as gambling agents and support association staff, to relinquish responsibility on behalf of the gambling consumer). The results indicate that such a distinction is fruitful for a nuanced understanding of contemporary responsibility policies and practices.

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  • Experts without rules: scrutinizing the unregulated free zone of the management consultants

    2017. Susanna Alexius. The Organization of the Expert Society

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  • Profit-Making for Mutual Benefit: The Case of Folksam 1945–2015

    2017. Susanna Alexius, Martin Gustavsson, Tiziana Sardiello.


    The contribution of this paper centers on organizational conditions and mechanisms for long-term justification and survival of constitutional hybrids—organizations that not only integrate various institutional logics, but also integrate structural elements, ideal-typical of different types of organizations and societal spheres. Responding to calls for studies that relate macro-, meso-and micro-level analyses, we draw on Boltanski and Thévenot’s theory of justification and a 70-year mixed-method case study of the mutually owned Swedish insurance firm, Folksam. We describe how this mutually owned enterprise went from justifying its profitmaking during the social-democratic regime to justifying its principle of mutual benefit in the decades following amarket turn in the 1980s. Our multi-level, longitudinal analysis suggests that constitutional hybrids like Folksam may survive and avoid isomorphism by making flexible use of their two-sided “Janus face”of civic and market logics of justification.

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  • Vad har ni för värden på kontot?

    2017. Susanna Alexius, Ola Segnestam Larsson. Kurage


    Kan en organisations olika intäkter användas till samma saker? Eller är det skillnad på en medlemsavgift och ett testamente? Eller ett offentligt bidrag? Ledare i organisationer verkar värdera olika intäkter på olika sätt och frågan är om en krona alltid är en krona. Forskarna Susanna Alexius och Ola Segnestam Larsson funderar på om pengar har olika värden.

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  • Mission(s) impossible? Configuring values in the governance of state-owned enterprises

    2015. Susanna Alexius, Jenny Cisneros Örnberg. International Journal of Public Sector Management 28 (4-5), 286-306


    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute to theory of hybrid organizations, with particular regard to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and their ability to contribute to sustaining value pluralism in the public sector.

    Design/methodology/approach – The paper offers a qualitative case concerning ongoing performance management reforms in the corporate governance of SOEs in Sweden, which is analyzed using theory on valuation and evaluation.

    Findings – It is found that the number of non-financial values is reduced with reference to categorization. Attempts are made to change the perception of the potential value conflict at hand between financial and non-financial missions by adding a number of neutralizing “meta values” such as transparency and efficiency to the performance language in use. There is a risk of mission drift as a clear hierarchization of values, prioritizing financial values, is created and sustained in “investment teams.” Processes, standards and dialogues are all dominated by an economic logic despite formal aspirations to balance the values at stake. The few remaining non-financial values are translated into economic language aiming for a commensuration of the performance of the different missions. In addition, the ambition of the public policy assignment may be further reduced by de-coupling.

    Originality/value – The paper suggests a novel approach to hybrid organizations in general and SOEs in particular when exploring how the values underlying complex missions are configured in “value work” performed by government officials in Swedish government offices. Such analyses of value work in the micro-practice of hybrids offer a more fine-grained understanding of organizational dilemmas that are commonly acknowledged, but more seldom explained in empirical detail.

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  • Contestation in transition: value configurations and market reform in the markets for gambling, coal and alcohol

    2014. Susanna Alexius, Daniel Castillo, Martin Rosenström. Configuring Value Conflicts in Markets, 178-204

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  • Intervention markets and market re-organization

    2014. Mats Jutterström, Susanna Alexius, Rosenström Martin.


    Organizations and markets are more similar than institutionalized ideas have us believe. A generic similarity is that they are both organized forms of co-ordination in society, and as such often subject to re-organization. However, conversely to formal organizations, the topic of why and how markets are re-organized has generally been neglected by organizational scholars. In this article, we 1) adopt an open system perspective on market re-organization, and 2) specifically analyze how other markets drive re-organization of the individual market.

    Empirically, the article demonstrates how new or existing markets come into close relation to other markets as a response to their perceived failures or other problems. We refer to the prior type of market as ‘intervention markets’, i.e. markets that intervene in the function of other markets. The individual markets studied – a financial market in our first case and, foremost, power production markets in our second case – were all re-organized as a way to manage the pressure of intervention markets. However, the intentions behind the re-organizations differed: exclusion of the intervention-market (an advisory market) in the first study, and adaptation to it (the EU market for emission allowances) in the latter.

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  • Value work in markets: configuring values, organizing markets

    2014. Susanna Alexius, Kristina Tamm Hallström. Configuring Value Conflicts in Markets, 1-21

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  • Varför är det så svårt att åstadkomma ansvar på marknader?

    2014. Susanna Alexius. Lotteriinspektionens skriftserie, 14-29


    Ek dr. Susanna Alexius vid Score, Stockholms universitet och Handelshögskolan i Stockholm ger sin syn på ansvarsfrågan inom bland annat spelmarknaden genom en sammanställning av det egna författarskapet i bl a boken Ansvar och marknader (Liber 2014) och ytterligare aktuell litteratur inom området. Hon lyfter här frågan om marknadens förutsättning att fördela och ge initiativ till ansvarstagande för spelmarknadens baksidor för att ge ytterligare fördjupning kring lösningen av problem inom spelmarknaden. Slutsatserna står delvis i kontrast mot ett förhärskande tankestoff om individualitet, beteendevetenskap och det egna ansvaret.

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  • Sustainable banking?: The Discursive Repertoire in Sustainability reports of banks in Sweden

    2013. Susanna Alexius, Staffan Furusten, Leina Löwenberg.

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  • Expert utan regler: managementkonsulternas frizon i det genomreglerade expertsamhället

    2012. Susanna Alexius. Expertsamhällets organisering, 27-49

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  • Som flugor kring godsakerna: vad gör konsulter med CSR och hållbarhetsidén?

    2012. Susanna Alexius, Staffan Furusten, Andreas Werr. Expertsamhällets organisering, 107-128

    Read more about Som flugor kring godsakerna
  • Contestation in transition: Value-conflicts and the organization of markets. The cases of alcohol, gambling and coal

    2011. Susanna Alexius, Daniel Castillo, Martin Rosenström.


    In this paper an historical comparative approach is applied to analyze how value conflict discourse and organization have evolved from the 1800s onward in three contested commodity markets – the alcohol, gambling and coal market. Situated mainly in the Swedish context, the three case studies demonstrate that the values at stake as well as the organizational arrangements brought forth in response to underlying value conflicts have changed significantly over time in all three markets. The commodities have stayed contested but for more or different reasons. Analyzing a dozen transformative moments in total we conclude that it matters to the organization of a market if there is an underlying value conflict and how this value conflict is configured. The comparative analysis sheds light on four processes in which value-conflict underpinnings of contested commodity markets may be shaped and altered: value addition, value expansion, value accumulation and value relocation.

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  • Making up the responsible gambler: Organizing self-control education and responsible gaming equipment in the Swedish gambling market

    2011. Susanna Alexius.  


    Responsibilization permeates the various corners of society - not least the

    markets where responsibility is shifted down from states and organizations to individuals in their role as consumers. How then is responsibility (re)constructed and (re)distributed amongst market actors? This empirical paper contributes to our understanding of the ‘preventive turn’ in governance and more specifically the current trend towards self-control, and self-management by an analysis of consumer responsibilization at the market level. The paper is empirically based on interviews with key informants involved in attempts to organize rational, responsible consumers in the contested Swedish gambling market, a dozen participant observations of responsible gaming education (offline) and Internet studies of on-line equipment and education designed to motivate and teach gamblers to assume responsibility for gambling related problems. Drawing on a market constructionist perspective a model of responsibility in the making is presented. The paper then contributes with empirical illustrations of consumer responsibilization practices carried out in the Swedish context. Findings suggest that the responsible gambler is made up both directly and indirectly, both positively and negatively and by employment of a subtle yet powerful discourse of care.

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  • Risk organizers in quest of authority: Organizing for impartiality in the markets of inspection and certification

    2011. Kristina Tamm Hallström, Ingrid Gustafsson, Susanna Alexius.


    On the basis of two empirical cases (the market of motor vehicle inspection and the market of management certification) this paper analyses different strategies used to make these markets credible and trustworthy. The market actors are referred to as risk organizers and the strategies used as risk management strategies. These risk management strategies are undertaken both by the market actors themselves, and by state authorities and/or NGOs. Through different organizational solutions, authority for the verification activities is gained. Combining theories of the risk-society state, organizational analyses of standards as transnational regulations, with the critical literature on auditing, the paper explains how the expanding market of verifications such as vehicle inspection and management certification can appear stable and credible.

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  • Risk organizers in quest of authority: Organizing risks and risk prevention in the markets of inspection and certification

    2011. Kristina Tamm Hallström, Ingrid Gustafsson, Susanna Alexius.


    On the basis of two empirical cases (the market of motor vehicle inspection and the market of management certification) this paper analyses different strategies used to make these markets credible and trustworthy. The market actors are referred to as risk organizers and the strategies used as risk management strategies. These risk management strategies are undertaken both by the market actors themselves, and by state authorities and/or NGO’s. Through different organizational solutions, authority for the verification activities is gained. Combining theories of market construction, organizational analyses of standards as transnational regulations, with the critical literature on audit, the paper explains how the expanding market of verifications such as vehicle inspection and management certification can appear stabile and credible.

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  • Struggling to challenge an informal field order: Professional associations as standard-setters

    2011. Susanna Alexius, Frida Pemer.


    In the last decades, the consulting industry has undergone major changes. The industry has grown rapidly, attracted many new players and the content of the service has expanded to include different types of services. In this changing field, actors such as professional associations, consultants and clients have sought to find ways of defining the boundaries and professional identities of consultants. In this paper, we explore the strategies used by professional associations to balance the demands of professionalization with the informal and elusive characteristics of the consulting field. Drawing on an extensive longitudinal field-study of seven self professional associations we describe and analyze obstacles faced and strategies applied when attempting to challenge this informal field order by way of standardization. The results indicate that the informal field order in the consulting industry is so strong that attempts of introducing more formal orders such as standards become a high-risk project for the professional associations, as it may cause them to lose legitimacy and members. As a consequence, the attempts of professionalization are adjusted to fit the norms in the informal field order rather than the other way around.

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Show all publications by Susanna Alexius at Stockholm University