Critical Literature Review























Part 1: Critical Literature Review and Research Question(s), Aim(s) and Objective(s)


Within humanitarian settings such as Doctors without Boards, there is an inevitable need for inter-organizational collaboration amid substantial challenges that characterize emergency operations. According to O’Leary and Vij (2012),  the interorganisational association is well-defined as  “any joint activity by two or more agencies working together that is intended to increase public value by them working together versus working disjointedly (p 508).”  This description aligns with  that of Perrault et al., (2011), who postulated that inter-organizational collaboration is “a strong relationship that brings organizations that were previously separate into a new structure with the commitment to a normally defined mission, structure, or planning effort (p 283).” The collaboration constitutes well-defined relations between organizations and confers benefits to all stakeholders organized to achieve common objectives. Thus far, scholars and researchers exploring the drivers and inhibitors of collaboration in various reports and papers have only managed to enumerate factors influencing teamwork within a disaster relief context (Moshtari & Gonçalves 2017. p 1674).

As wrote by Golonka (2013a p 16), the literature on this complex phenomenon is considered to entails inter-organizational cooperation, inter-organizational relationships, alliances, alliance portfolios, and alliance networks. Accordingly, the theoretical models used to analyses the subject of  inter-organizational collaboration by scholars include  the resource approach, theories of social networks, the concept of dynamic capabilities, learning of the organization, the transaction cost theory,  the relational approach,  the school of real options, the goal setting theory, or the agency theory (Golonka 2013a. p 17). According to Locke and Latham (1990), the goal setting theory focuses of the practical ramifications of motivating employees in the workplace. Mutual goal setting is one of the most important elements of effective inter-organizational collaboration. Although Locke and Latham’s (2002) theory of goal setting and task motivation introduced us to the ideology of job satisfaction, our understanding of employee’s different regulatory processes and different goals was increased by Deci and Ryan (2009). Overall, numerous scholars have put forward various factors that influence inter-organizational collaborations within a disaster relief context.

National culture– The culture of a nation not only impacts the functioning and formation of organizations, but also the levels of trust in society.  In other words, national culture effects inter-organizational collaboration in terms of solving problems and sharing knowledge in the course of the relationship. While investigating the level of collaboration in the implementation of a project in the European Union, Siakas et al. (2010 p 376) established that collaboration impacts the ability of partner from different nations to share knowledge. In the same token, (Golonka 2012b), put forward that organizations incorporated in societies associated with high levels of collectivism are more collaborative than companies from individualistic regions. He argued that the later prefers alliance with organizations that are at per with them. On the same note, Furres et al., (2012 p 67) postulated that national culture define the strategic responses that companies adopt  in the event of problems or disasters. Put differently, organisations from individualistic counties are more likely to engage active (aggression, creative approach, or opportunism) rather than passive (patience, neglect, non-cooperation) strategies of handling an emergency.

According to Golonka (2013a. p 21), firms  that come from countries with an overriding culture of male domination  have a greater likelihood of  exercising destructive strategies such as  aggression, withdrawal, neglect, or opportunism. Such nations also have weaker constructive strategies and positive social reactions.  As far as poor distance index is concerned, there is a strong preference for passive strategies in society with high uncertainty avoidance index.

As mentioned, national culture is the primary determinant of trust and risk perceptions in collaborative societies. On the whole, several research studies have explored the ramifications of national culture on trust in inter-organizational collaboration.

Risk perception– Based on the study of Delerue and Simon (2009. p 14), which investigated 344 organizational alliances, the risk perception of the relationship is significantly impacted by   the value manages attach to cultural dimensions. The cultural dimensions evaluated by the study include risk of using the firm for personal purpose, risk of lack of learning in the collaboration, risk of opportunity behavior, and risk withdrawing from the alliance. The study also established that male dominance and individualism impacts the perception of the threat of opportunistic behaviour. Similarly, there was a positive correlation between uncertainty avoidance risk, power distance, and risk perception in the dimensions studied. This account conforms to Wagner (1995. p 153), who postulated that the risk associated with collaboration is affected by individualism and high-power distance. Furthermore, the assertion was crowned by Berkema and Vermeulen (1997. p 846), who argued that uncertainty impacts the risk perception of the relationship, the survival of the alliance, and the approach to collaboration in general.

Trust– As cited by Rampersad et al., (2010. P 488) “trust can influence the formation and development of collaborative relationships, the coordination of alliances between firms as well as the harmony within the collaboration.” Essentially, trust in the epicenter of international alliance because global collaboration is fundamentally bound by trust. Styles and Hersch (2005. p 105), argues that all types of trust are paramount at every phase of an alliance development.

Formal institutions– The politico-legal environment including formal rules of the game affecting the organization pose certain barriers that inhibit international alliances. In nations such as Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, and Bulgaria, Hyder and Abraha (2008. p 290) found that formal institutions and cultures affect the learning process in alliances, and the effectiveness of collaboration. In particular, factors such as centralized decision-making, language problems, short-term goals, attachment to tradition constituted the main barriers.  Nevertheless, political, economic, and cultural differences between the counties in the partnership turned out to be the biggest threats to collaboration. 

Economic and technological factors- The current dynamic growth in the number of collaborations/alliances is majorly attributed to economic factors and technological environment, which are associated with increasing competition and the deepening process of globalization.

The primary objective of the study is to explore the subject of inter-organizational collaboration as a complex phenomenon influenced by several factors.  Accordingly, the gap in the literature is informed by the fact that this paper forms a foundation for further empirical research because it is merely a theoretical and conceptual study. In other words, this investigation is exploratory in nature, since the findings obtained are yet to be verified practically. As far as the Research Question (RQ) is concerned, this paper sought to identify factors influencing inter-organizational collaboration relationships, especially with humanitarian settings.





Part 2: Outline of Research Design and Methods (Methodology)

This study explores the results of literature analyses and findings of cutting-edge research in the domain of inter-organizational collaboration, taking into account the operation environment of Doctors without Borders. Informed by the main objective of the study- identifying factors that influence inter-organization collaboration- the content presented in this article drew on Systematic Literature Review (SLR) approach. As cited by Vergnes et al. 2010. p 771) a SLR is “a scientific way of synthesizing a plethora of information, by exhaustively searching out and objectively analysing the studies dealing with a given issue.”  SLR was preferred because it allows the elimination of deficiencies of traditional literature reviews, which are characterized with bias and lack scientific rigor (Nightingale 2009. p 382). Web of science, Google scholar, and Scopus were the primary databases used in the research and search for all possible configurations of the main keyword- inter-organizational collaboration. Moreover, the search was limited to English language papers in scholarly journals, scientific magazines, and conference publications. Similarly, social, management, and administration sciences were embraced in the research. In particular, four primary phases were covered in the process of SLR: identification, screening, eligibility, and inclusion. The articles reporting on factors influencing inter-organization collaboration were selected in the inclusion stage.  Put differently, throughout the research, SLR focused on studies which surveyed the factors driving the process of inter-organizational collaboration and only papers addressing the subject were nominated. An in-depth analysis of the factors integrated the purpose, methodology, and the research context applied, while designating the typology of factors contributing to the effectiveness of the subject in question. A collection of factors influencing inter-organizational collaboration were identified following the analysis of key texts. The factors included not only create the need for executing actions jointly, but also determine the development and consequences of the collaboration.

On the positive side on the spectrum, SLR improves the breadth and rigor of literature review. According to Mallett et al. (2012), upholding the core principles of systematic review- rigor, replicability, and transparency- enhances the strength and quality of conventional literature reviews in several of ways (p 445).  On the negative side of the spectrum, a complete systematic review is a resource-intensive undertaking faced by several practical challenges. Overall, a SLR should be perceived as a mean of finding a sensible and robust answer to a research question, but not as an end in itself. Accordingly, there are a number of ethical issues considered when preparing and publishing a SLR. They include conflict of interest, informed consent, unfair ghost and guest authorship, plagiarism, and other ethical insufficiencies.  Addressing these concerns necessitates the adaptation of good practices in publishing reviews. Such practices include avoiding redundant publications, transparency, avoiding plagiarism, flagging fraudulent research or suspected plagiarism, and ensuring accuracy (Wager & Wiffen 2011. p 133). On the whole, systematic review authors have important responsibilities and obligations that should be followed diligently.


Brendan C







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Delerue, H. & Simon, E., 2009. National cultural values and the perceived relational risks in biotechnology alliance relationships. International Business Review18(1), pp.14-25

Furrer, O., Tjemkes, B.V., Adolfs, K. and Aydinlik, A.Ü., 2012. Response strategies in an international strategic alliance experimental context: Cross-country differences. Journal of International Management18(1), pp.66-84

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Golonka, M., 2013a. External Factors Influencing Inter-organizational Collaboration: The Strategic Perspective. Management and Business Administration. Central Europe21(3), pp.15-29

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Nightingale, A., 2009. A guide to systematic literature reviews. Surgery (Oxford)27(9), pp.381-384

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