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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Power, politics and the innovation process: analysis of an organizational field in agriculture Egri, Carolyn Patricia


An analysis of the organizational field of B.C. agriculture was conducted to explore the politics of the innovation process. Agricultural innovations in organic farming, synthetic agrichemicals and biogenetic engineering were studied at the individual, organizational and interorganizational levels. Research questions regarding the innovation decision—making process, innovation championship, organizational politics, organization theory and interorganizational networks were explored. A total of 137 persons (organic and conventional farmers, BCMAFF employees, farm organization employees) were interviewed in this research study. Data was collected via semi—structured interviews, questionnaires, and analysis of publications to investigate a total of 28 research questions. Similarities and differences between organic and conventional farmers in respect to their socioeconomic characteristics, motivations, actions and environmentalist beliefs were identified. Organic farmers basis for their innovation adoption decisions was found to be largely informed by their environmentalist philosophy whereas the primary motivating factor for conventional farmers was economic rather than ideological. Case studies of 33 farm organizations (20 conventional and 13 organic) were conducted. Organizational fields were found to be defined not only in terms of products, services and geographic location but also in terms of ideology. Within the conventional agriculture organizational field there was a high degree of homogeneity in organizational structures and decision making processes as well as close collaboration with government policy makers. Within the organic agriculture organizational field there was homogeneity in production practices, but heterogeneity in organizational structures, goals and decision making processes based on the radicalness of the environmentalist philosophy of an organization’s membership. The formation and operation of interorganizational networks in each organizational field confirmed previous findings of the critical problems in overorganized and underorganized networks. A longitudinal analysis of organizational politics in the organic agriculture organizational field revealed that institutionalization processes engender political contests among competing interests. The successful championship of an innovative government regulatory system was attributed to the early use of a wide variety of collaborative and competitive political games. Opponents’ efforts to neutralize champions’ escalation of commitment during the later stages of the innovation development process proved to be ineffective.

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