Interorganizational networks in the third sector of social services in Andalusia (Spain)

Daniel Holgado, Isidro Maya-Jariego


The third sector is characterized by the existence of a complex space of relations between different types of entities (non-governmental organizations, public entities, and user groups, among others). These relationships have to do with the management of funding system, the implementation of initiatives and the development of social policies (Earles & Lyn, 2012). In this context, there is a tension between the need for intersectoral collaboration to delivering of services and the competition to access to public and private resources to sustain these services (Altman, 1995; Tsasis, 2009). Both processes, collaboration and competition, influence the efficiency of resource use and the effectiveness of the actions implemented (Kaim, 2014). In this study we analyzed the interorganizational networks of social service organizations of the third sector in Andalusia (Spain). Representatives of 21 entities were interviewed to obtain information about their relationship with a list of 45 organizations, namely: 24 entities with most projects presented in the public grants calls (2017-2018), and the 21 organizations of the respondents. Four types of relationships between organizations were analyzed: acquaintanceship, collaboration, perception of high potential for collaboration and perception of low potential for collaboration. Square matrices between respondents and two-mode matrices with the rest of entities were generated. Centrality and cohesion measures were used to describe the structure of the interorganizational networks and correlations and linear regressions between the networks obtained through the Quadratic Assignment Procedure (QAP) were carried out. The results showed firstly that the relationships between the participating organizations were structured according to the field of activity, with one cluster formed by organizations focused on immigration and social inclusion and another one formed by entities providing services to elderly and disabled people. On the other hand, the entities with most projects presented, and with the greatest capacity for attracting resources, were central actors both in the network of acquaintances and in the collaboration network. Their more active role not only allows them to be recognized in the sector, but also increases the likelihood of interaction with them. Likewise, a high correlation was found between acquaintanceship and collaboration networks and, to a lesser extent, with the potential for collaboration network. Finally, a greater acquaintance between entities and perception of potential collaboration, and the structural equivalence in relations with other entities in the sector, predicted joint participation in activities. The results indicate the existence of intermediary entities that articulate the space of interorganizational relations and that serve as a link between the third sector and the public administration. On the other hand, the scope of action delimits the space of relations. The entities with a focus on services to elderly and disable people have a greater capacity to capture resources and diversify funding sources, while social inclusion and immigrant care entities tend to have greater political influence and greater prominence in the network of relations. Finally, the existence of informal relations between entities, as well as the perception of a convergence of interests and objectives, act as predictive variables of collaboration in different joint activities.

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