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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Determinants and processes of institutional change in the B.C. coastal forest industry Zietsma, Charlene Ellen


This dissertation was motivated by a dramatic story of institutional change in the BC coastal forest industry after years of active resistance to such change. Individuals, organizations, stakeholders of those organizations, members of the organizational field, and changes in the broader external environment all played a part in bringing the change about. The highly publicized nature of the issue, and the 'extreme' characteristics of the setting offered a unique opportunity to address the research question: "How does institutional change occur within organizations and fields?". This dissertation has focused on identifying determinants and processes of institutional change at multiple levels of analysis. Rich data from multiple sources was collected over the period from 1980 to 2001 in the BC coastal forestry context. These data included interviews with organizational field members, field notes/texts from public speeches, presentations, and a protest trip, media accounts, organizational documents and websites, and other academic reports. These multiple sources were triangulated and analyzed qualitatively using a grounded theory approach featuring recursive iterations between data and theory. Issues examined included a) organizational responses to stakeholder influence attempts (Chapter 3), b) intra-organizational learning and change processes at the institutionally entrepreneurial firm (Chapter 4), and c) multilevel determinants and processes of institutional change (Chapter 5, synthesizing the insights of Chapters 3 and 4). This dissertation contributes new insights and offers refinements to existing perspectives on institutional change, organizational learning and stakeholder theory. Specifically, changes in field membership, relational patterns, interpretations and stakeholder salience were found to interact with one other to create the conditions for institutional change. While prior literature has identified contextual conditions as impacts on organizational responses to institutional pressures (Oliver, 1991), in this study it was found that contextual conditions were in part enacted by a focal firm's attentional and relational patterns. Furthermore, some members of an organization had divergent interpretations and distinctive relationships. When these members had social skills for meaning-making, and were able to obtain sufficient power or endorsement, organizational level change could occur. Such change in an institutionally entrepreneurial firm could trigger change in the organizational field. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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