Innovation diffusion within large environmental NGOs through informal network agents

Author(s):

Yuta J. Masuda, Yuqing Liu, Sheila M. W. Reddy, Kenneth A. Frank, Kyle Burford, Jonathan R. B. Fisher and Jensen Montambault

Journal or Book Title: Nature Sustainability

Keywords: Interdisciplinary studies; Psychology and behaviour; Sustainability

Volume/Issue: 1

Page Number(s): 190–197

Year Published: 2018

Abstract:

The Sustainable Development Goals present opportunities for environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) to address new challenges. Such innovation requires dynamism and adaptability that large ENGOs may lack, and flatter organizational structures common to large ENGOs may limit the efficacy of top-down diffusion of innovative ideas or approaches. Instead, diffusion may occur through informal networks. We conducted a network experiment to estimate the role of informal boundary spanners—individuals who cross internal organizational boundaries (for example, departmental or geographic) via their informal social networks—for diffusing innovations in a large ENGO. We find they are four times more likely to diffuse innovations than non-boundary spanners, although organizational positions (for example, formal organizational hierarchy) can moderate this behaviour. We also find evidence they play a role in changing attitudes in favour of the innovation. These findings highlight how informal boundary spanners can drive organization-wide diffusion of innovations in ENGOs to strengthen capacity to address pressing sustainability challenges.

DOI: 10.1038/s41893-018-0045-9

Type of Publication: Journal Article

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