Cooptation or Convergence: Structural and Perceptual Boundaries of the Field of Environmental NGOs
Andrew J. Hoffman,
Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise

This paper redirects the study of boundary  definition in field-level populations. The resulting view emphasizes the heterogeneity of populations comprising a field and challenges standard notions of field-level contests, offering more sophisticated notions of who is engaged in field level debate and how they are configured. More specifically, it analyzes the configuration of a field of environmental ENGOs, how they are configured and how they are or are not linked with corporations. Further, this paper considers how perceptual measures of identity, image and reputation are critical in understanding these boundary questions. Using social network analysis and survey instruments, this paper defines the boundaries of a field level population of environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) along structural dimensions related to the ties they share with each other and with corporations. It also defines such populations based upon the perceptual dimensions of those inside and outside the population. By contrasting these
structural and perceptual depictions, the paper revisits issues related to cooptation versus convergence in field level engagements as well as the “radical flank effect” to discuss implications for the ability of these ENGOs to act as change agents within the field.

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