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  • Networks of Accountability - Seminar Presentation - download version

    Rights statement: This conference presentation represents the evolving ideas contained within a paper currently under development. It should not be treated as a final version of those ideas and the authors reserve the right to make any changes or modifications to this document until such time as the paper is published, when a link to that final document will be posted here.

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Networks of accountability: a case study of The descent of The Shard

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Abstract

Research on accountability has extended its domain beyond the technical aspects of reporting and control to incorporate broader social, ethical and operational aspects of organisational life. Empirical studies have drawn out the complexities of accountability in practice, while a stream of philosophically informed research has developed a range of perspectives on how accountability can be understood and implemented. However, to date we still know little about how accountability structures are formed within networks, and how these influence and are influenced by the development of organisational networks over time. We address these gaps in the literature through a longitudinal case study within a multi-stakeholder collaboration.

The collaborative project studied is a charity fund raising event called ‘The Descent of The Shard’ in which His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, led an abseil from the top of London’s newest and tallest skyscraper followed by other individuals, raising over £2.5m for The Outward Bound Trust and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust. The reliance of this collaboration on voluntary operational and financial contributions from multiple partners placed an increased emphasis on control through non-contractual agreements and accountabilities, increasing the transparency of the accountable relations as they formed through discourse, influenced by significant organisational spaces.

Our ability to longitudinally study these relations throughout their formation and development, rather than the cross-sectional study of stable and established patterns of behaviour, was enhanced by establishing a level of research access equivalent to that of a socially trusted insider. This combination of factors allows a rich understanding of accountability to be derived from this research, which extends theory from individual and organisational accountability to the conceptualisation of ‘Networks of Accountability’, constructed through social and material interactions, and utilised to underpin and reinforce the performance management and control mechanisms of collaborative activity.