Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Brett Crawford

Committee Co-Chair

Jenny L. Daugherty

Committee Member 1

Chad M. Laux

Committee Member 2

Brad Alge


Cross-sector collaborative partnerships aim to bring resources and knowledge from their particular sectors to provide innovative solutions in response to current social, economic and environmental problems, and for developing policies and processes for emergent issues. However, cross-sector partnerships involving public (i.e., institutions of higher education), private, and nonprofit organizations are complex and dynamic systems that are extremely difficult to manage once they have been established. Organizations spanning different sectors not only have dissimilar operating models, working cultures, values, and leadership styles, but are driven by different motives in joining the partnership thereby making the act of collaborating very challenging. When performing well, cross-sector collaborative partnerships have transformative outcomes due to the collaborative advantage possible with the participants’ knowledge and resources. However, these partnerships are rarely successful due to what is termed “collaborative inertia,” which prevents progress towards goals.

This study examined the mechanisms that “make things happen” in two cross-sector collaborative partnerships using a qualitative, multiple case study approach. The study analyzed numerous data sources, providing 24-months of longitudinal data regarding the creation and operations of the partnerships. Through this approach, this research was able to operationalize the concept of collaborative inertia and made substantial contributions to the concept of “making things happen” in the theory of collaborative advantage. In particular, deeper understanding has been provided in understanding the importance of partnership structure, repetitive communication processes, regularity in usage of collaborative spaces, balance in informal team roles, and collective actions that were key mechanisms that “made things happen” in the cross-sector collaborative partnerships studied.