Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Construction of Collective Identity and Dynamics of Organizational Learning in UN-Peacekeeping Missions

Klimecki, RüdigerDr. Melanie Schreiner, Sebastian Döring


This project investigates how UN-Peacekeeping Missions as a form of “fragile” network organization achieve integration and build problem-solving capabilities. Fragile organizations are characterized by multiple actors with diverging prerequisites for legitimacy, logics of action, and degree of professionalism. While having a common shared objective they also pursue individual goals which are inconsistent and/or potentially conflicting. Furthermore, actors need to reconcile their diverging functional competences for goal achievement, often acting under severe time constraints and (public) pressure of success. UN-Peacekeeping missions are prime examples for such fragile organizations. Sadly, they also frequently show the difficulties associated with “organizing” in such conditions.

Traditional approaches to organizational design have little to offer to deal with these difficulties; given divided authority structures, the common structural integration mechanisms – hierarchical order and control – are rather inadequate or even not applicable. Instead, alternative mechanisms are proposed which are based on self-organization, voluntary commitment, reconcilement of interests and informal relations. They operate through networks of individuals engaged in reciprocal, preferential, and mutually supportive actions; and they work on the grounds of a collective identity with shared views of reality, frames of reference, norms, and experiences. This identity secures commitment to the common goal and serves to induce cooperation and coordination between actors.

However, the emergence or deliberate construction of a collective identity is severely impaired in fragile organizations because it depends on the availability of a shared cultural frame but all actors bring their idiosyncratic, often greatly diverging (organizational) cultures to that process. Thus, our main research questions are: How can fragile organizations handle their integration problems? What role does collective identity play in this context? And finally, what factors, means etc. promote or hamper the building of problem-solving capabilities?
To answer these questions we investigate

  1. the prerequisites for and construction of a collective identity by actors in fragile organizations
  2. how this influences collective learning processes and problem-solving capabilities
  3. which competences and management structures are required to support these processes

Project Publications

Döring Sebastian/Schreiner, Melanie: Inter-agency coordination in United Nations peacebuilding. Practical implications from a micro-level analysis of the United Nations family in Liberia, Konstanz 2008.
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