Interorganizational Relations Theory (IOR)

  • Addresses change across organizations
  • Focuses on how organizations work together
  • Based on the premise that collaboration among community organizations leads to a more comprehensive coordinated approach to a complex issue that can be achieved by one organization.
  • Provides a useful foundation for understanding and enhancing community mobilization to address a range of public health issues such as emergency preparedness and tobacco control.

History and Application of Interorganizational Relations Theory (IOR)

Beginning in the 1960s, researchers had a growing interest in how the environment affected organizational behavior.

Specifically, interest in how organizations could decrease uncertainty in the environment through collaboration.

Stated benefits of collaboration include:

  • Access to new ideas, material, and other resources
  • Reduced duplication of services
  • More efficient use of resources
  • Increased power and influence
  • Ability to address issues beyond a single organization's domain
  • Shared responsibility for complex or controversial issues

Alternatively, costs of collaboration include:

  • Diversion of organizational resources or mission
  • Incompatibility with partner organizations' policies or positions
  • Delays in taking action due to consensus building

Factors critical to IOR formation include:

  • Recognition of the need for coordination and interdependence; available resources (time, staff, and expertise).
  • Mandates from a funding or regulatory agency; clear and mutually shared goals, values, interests and norms.
  • Positive previous experience in working together.

Stage theory is often used to explain how IORs evolve over time.

The design of an IOR, including its structure and processes, will reflect the degree of complexity of the environment in which the organization operates