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Special Issue Call for Papers - New organizational forms in emerging economies: Bridging across the agribusiness management and development fields

Guest editors:

Dr. Domenico Dentoni, Business Management and Organization Group, Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands). Email: [email protected]
Dr. Jos Bijman, Business Management and Organization Group, Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands). Email: [email protected]
Marilia Bonzanini Bossle, Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Rio Grande do Sul, Campus Viamão (Brazil). Email: [email protected]
Dr. Sera Gondwe, Agribusiness Management Department, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Malawi). Email: [email protected]
Prof. Prossy Isubikalu, Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, Makerere University (Uganda). Email: [email protected]
Dr. Chen Ji, Department of Agricultural Economics and Management/China Academy of Rural Development (CARD), Zhejiang University. Email: [email protected]
Drs. Chintan Kella, Business & Management Department, LUISS Guido Carli University (Italy). Email: [email protected]
Prof. Stefano Pascucci, Circular Economy and Sustainability, Exeter Business School (United Kingdom). Email: [email protected]
Dr. Annie Royer, Department of Agri-Food Economies and Consumer Science,
University of Laval (Canada). Email: [email protected]
Prof. Luciana Marques Vieira, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo (Brazil). Email: [email protected]

Following a global wave moving the field of international agricultural development towards a market-oriented approach, both agribusiness and development actors have been experimenting new organizational forms that conjugate the creation of social and commercial value in emerging economies. Often these new organizational forms emerge in relation to actors’ engagement with sustainable development goals, at both local and global scale.

A plethora of novel organizations have been emerging under different names and forms. Among the others:
•    Inclusive business models at different stages of the agri-food value chain (Vorley et al. 2009; Bitzer and Hamann 2015);
•    Business platforms (Devaux et al. 2009), incubators (Ndabeni 2008) and hubs (Kilelu et al. 2013) enhancing entrepreneurship of agri-food value chain actors and startup development (Isenberg 2010); 
•    New generation of market-driven cooperatives (Bijman and Hu 2011; Francesconi and Heerink 2011) and producers’ organizations (Hellin et al. 2009);
•    Multi-stakeholder (Brouwer 2016; Dentoni et al. 2018), public-private (Narrod et al. 2009) and cross-sector partnerships (Dentoni et al. 2016; Johnson et al, 2018) regulating private standards (Schouten et al. 2012) and/or promoting and assessing sustainability practices along agri-food value chains (Vellema and van Wijk 2015);
•    Business investment in agricultural commodity exchanges (Sitko and Jayne 2012; Meijerink et al. 2014);
•    Agribusiness companies’ foundations, spinoffs and problem-based corporate social responsibility strategies (Halme et al. 2012);
•    Learning alliances (Lundy et al. 2005) and networks (Waddell et al. 2013) seeking to build coherence across multiple societal actors to address Sustainable Development Goals;
•    Short supply chains (Lagerkvist et al. 2013), community development interventions or community self-organizing experiences (Yates and Gutberlet 2011), sometimes supported through advancements in digital technologies (e.g., Taobao villages, Leong et al. 2016) seeking to achieve long-term financial sustainability.

The experience of these new organizational forms does not go without controversies. Are these new organizational forms, market-driven yet meant to enhance food security and community development, able to enhance social and economic inclusiveness of marginalized actors? When engaging in social development activities, are they able to remain market-oriented and competitive in the long run? While sustaining a competitive advantage, are they indeed able to deal with the social problems that surround them? The debate is open in the literature and often polarized between enthusiasts and critics of the role of specific novel market-driven organizational forms (Bitzer and Glasbergen 2015).

Furthermore, this debate is also polarizing scientists, who often analyze different processes and outcomes of these organizations without engaging in a truly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary debate (Dentoni et al. 2012). Economists, sociologists, political scientists, business management, agronomists and nutritionists among the others have analyzed the role and outcomes of these new organizational perspectives in agri-food systems from their own disciplinary perspective. Yet, they still have missed opportunities to engage in a nuanced analysis that connects with agribusiness managers, international development actors and entrepreneurs engaged in the design, implementation, evolution and assessment of these new organizational forms (Dentoni and Bitzer 2015).

This special issue calls scientists, action researchers and practitioners in multiple disciplines involved in agricultural and food value chains to describe, analyze and/or evaluate the functioning and the effectiveness of new organizational forms in emerging economies from a variety of disciplinary and actor perspectives. Methodological contributions are particularly welcomed since new organizational forms often have a multi-purpose and multi-stakeholder nature which make the assessment and evaluation of their effectiveness (or performance) rather challenging.
Ultimately, the selected papers will contribute to develop an integrative framework that responds to the demands of agribusiness managers, international development actors and entrepreneurs participating, or considering to participate, in these new organizational forms.

To reach this aim, we are seeking to publish a plurality of rigorous empirical cases, theoretical articles, methodological papers and reflection essays that advance our understanding and assessment of the novel organizational forms currently under development and experimentation.

An indicative but not exhaustive list of questions that would bring a contribution to this special issue may include, but not be limited to:
•    How can (one of) these new organizational forms in emerging economies be analyzed and assessed with one or more theoretical lenses?
•    Why did these new organizational forms emerge? How does they take into account and address the social or strategic problems at hand?
•    When do these new organizational forms work, and when do they not work in relation to supporting sustainability transitions or enhancing resilience of their members?
•    How do these organizational forms evolve over time? Are their structures and people suitable to change in uncertain and turbulent external environments?
•    How do these organizational forms navigate the dilemmas arising with seeking to combine the creation of commercial and social value?
•    What are the dimensions and indicators of success, effectiveness or impact – for example in terms of sustainability or resilience - in these new organizational forms?
•    What are the tensions, struggles, challenges that these new organizational forms face when seeking to achieve impact?
•    What is the role of universities and knowledge centers, as well as academics and action researchers, in and around these new organizational forms? What is the role of non-profit associations and unions in enhancing participation of farmers and their representatives in these new organizational forms?
•    Are these new organizational forms learning over time? Do they trigger learning, innovation and entrepreneurship in their participants? Why or why not? What are the dimensions and/or indicators of learning?
•    What is actually novel in these new organizational forms? What are dimensions and indicators of their novelty and innovativeness, also from a social and environmental standpoint?

The guest editors acknowledge two research projects, the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (Higher Education Solutions Network, USAID) and Organizational Structures for Smallholder Resilience (OSMARE, 4th Global Challenge Program, NWO/The Netherlands) sponsoring the coordination of this Special Issue. Moreover, this special issue contributes to the vision development of the working group on "Food security, regenerative agriculture and circular food systems" coordinated by Exeter Business School. For more information on the working group, please contact Prof. Stefano Pascucci here.

Paper development workshops

•    Track “Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Economies”, Wageningen International Chain And Network Management (WICANEM) conference in Ancona (Italy), July 2th-4th, 2018. More information and registration here.

•    Online webinar, early September, 2019. For more information, please contact Dr. Domenico Dentoni here.

Special Issue timeline

Authors interested in engaging in a developmental conversation with the guest editors are welcome to send their extended abstracts before the submission of the full paper. A tentative timeline is reported below:

Abstract submission deadline: September 15th, 2018.
Feedback to authors on abstracts: October 10th, 2018.

Full paper submission deadline: December 20th, 2018.
Feedback to authors on full papers: March 1st, 2019.
Resubmission deadline: May 1st, 2019.
Final notification to authors: June 1st, 2019.
Publication of the Special issue: July 15th, 2019.

The papers that are evaluated to be promising but not ready in time for the publication of the Special issue (July 15th, 2019) will receive a “Revise & Resubmit” advice for delayed publication in a regular issue of the journal, or a possible second volume of this Special issue, with further developmental comments from reviewers.


Bijman, J. and Hu, D. (2011). The rise of new farmer cooperatives in China; Evidence from Hubei Province. Journal of rural cooperation, 39(2), 99-113.

Bitzer, V. and Hamann, R. (2015). The business of social and environmental innovation. In :The Business of Social and Environmental Innovation (pp. 3-24). Springer International Publishing.

Bitzer, V. and Glasbergen, P. (2015). Business–NGO partnerships in global value chains: part of the solution or part of the problem of sustainable change?. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 12, 35-40.

Brouwer, J.H., Woodhill, A.J., Hemmati, M., Verhoosel, K.S. and van Vugt, S.M. (2016). The MSP guide. Practical Action Publishing Ltd.

Dentoni, D., Hospes, O. and Ross, R.B. (2012). Managing wicked problems in agribusiness: the role of multi-stakeholder engagements in value creation: Editor's Introduction. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 15(B), 1-12.

Dentoni, D. and Bitzer, V. (2015). The role (s) of universities in dealing with global wicked problems through multi-stakeholder initiatives. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 68-78.

Dentoni, D., Bitzer, V. and Pascucci, S. (2016). Cross-sector partnerships and the co-creation of dynamic capabilities for stakeholder orientation. Journal of Business Ethics, 135(1), 35-53.

Dentoni, D., Bitzer, V., & Schouten, G. (2018). Harnessing wicked problems in multi-stakeholder partnerships. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-24, in press.

Devaux, A., Horton, D., Velasco, C., Thiele, G., López, G., Bernet, T and Ordinola, M. (2009). Collective action for market chain innovation in the Andes. Food policy, 34(1), 31-38.

Francesconi, G.N. and Heerink, N. (2011). Ethiopian agricultural cooperatives in an era of global commodity exchange: Does organisational form matter? Journal of African Economies, 20(1), 153-177.

Halme, M., Lindeman, S. and Linna, P. (2012). Innovation for inclusive business: Intrapreneurial bricolage in multinational corporations. Journal of Management Studies, 49(4), 743-784.

Hellin, J., Lundy, M. and Meijer, M. (2009). Farmer organization, collective action and market access in Meso-America. Food Policy, 34(1), 16-22.

Isenberg, D.J. (2010). How to start an entrepreneurial revolution. Harvard Business Review, 88(6), 40-50.

Johnson, J.L., Dooley, K.J., Hyatt, D.G. and Hutson, A.M. (2018), Emerging Discourse Incubator: Cross‐Sector Relations in Global Supply Chains: A Social Capital Perspective. J Supply Chain Management 54, 21-33.

Kilelu, C.W., Klerkx, L. and Leeuwis, C. (2013). Unravelling the role of innovation platforms in supporting co-evolution of innovation: contributions and tensions in a smallholder dairy development programme. Agricultural systems, 118, 65-77.

Lagerkvist, C.J., Hess, S., Okello, J., Hansson, H. and Karanja, N. (2013). Food health risk perceptions among consumers, farmers, and traders of leafy vegetables in Nairobi. Food Policy, 38, 92-104.

Leong, C. M. L., Pan, S. L., Newell, S., & Cui, L. (2016). The Emergence of Self-Organizing E-Commerce Ecosystems in Remote Villages of China: A Tale of Digital Empowerment for Rural Development. Mis Quarterly, 40(2), 475-484.

Lundy, M., Gottret, M.V. and Ashby, J. (2005). Learning alliances: An approach for building multistakeholder innovation systems. CGIAR Institutional Learning and Change (ILAC) Brief 8, 1-4.

Meijerink, G., Bulte, E. and Alemu, D. (2014). Formal institutions and social capital in value chains: The case of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. Food Policy, 49, 1-12.

Narrod, C., Roy, D., Okello, J., Avendaño, B., Rich, K. and Thorat, A. (2009). Public–private partnerships and collective action in high value fruit and vegetable supply chains. Food Policy, 34(1), 8-15.

Ndabeni, L.L. (2008). The contribution of business incubators and technology stations to small enterprise development in South Africa. Development Southern Africa, 25(3), 259-268.

Schouten, G., Leroy, P. and Glasbergen, P. (2012). On the deliberative capacity of private multi-stakeholder governance: the roundtables on responsible soy and sustainable palm oil. Ecological Economics, 83, 42-50.

Sitko, N.J. and Jayne, T.S. (2012). Why are African commodity exchanges languishing? A case study of the Zambian Agricultural Commodity Exchange. Food Policy, 37(3), 275-282.

Vellema, S. and van Wijk, J. (2015). Partnerships intervening in global food chains: the emergence of co-creation in standard-setting and certification. Journal of Cleaner Production, 107, 105-113.

Vorley, B., Lundy, M. and MacGregor, J. (2009). Business models that are inclusive of small farmers. Agro-industries for Development, Wallingford, UK: CABI for FAO and UNIDO, 186-222.

Yates, J.S. and Gutberlet, J. (2011). Enhancing livelihoods and the urban environment: The local political framework for integrated organic waste management in Diadema, Brazil. The journal of development studies, 47(4), 639-656.

Waddell, S., McLachlan, M. and Dentoni, D. (2013). Learning & Transformative Networks to Address Wicked Problems: A GOLDEN Invitation. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 16(A).