Catalysts and Inhibitors of Cooperation
In order for a cooperative relationship to be established at all, it is necessary to create the right conditions to help overcome initial mistrust or to make potential partners aware of the benefits of joint activities. A good example of such activities creating a strong basis for the later effective cooperation of entities was proposed by Giesen (2002). Before initiating the process of cooperation itself, future partners must be provided with equality (irrespective of the status of individual entities), unity of objectives, sense of responsibility for participation combined with a feeling of causation (real impact on decision-making processes in a cooperating group), openness to share different resources (including information), sense of responsibility for the outcome (based on clearly defined roles and expectations assigned to them and a mutually agreed timetable for the achievement of the goal), and mutual trust. The last factor should be considered controversial - it is relatively rare for cooperation to be established in a fully comfortable situation, i.e. when relations based on trust between future partners exist. The most frequent case, however, is that trust will be built based on how well partners “perform” during an existing act of cooperation. This argument may be valid only when assuming that such trust is specified at the lowest possible level - mere confidence - so that other entities intending to cooperate will make every effort to achieve the desired results of such cooperation. After all, it is difficult to expect a high degree of trust in a group of entities having no contact with each other before, e.g. a group of a dozen or a few dozen entrepreneurs wishing to establish a CO.
Having laid foundations for creating good cooperation, activities initiating the process of cooperation itself may be started. It is essential for an entity that will be the driving force of the cooperation initiation phase to emerge naturally: it may be both one of the entities wishing to be directly involved in subsequent cooperation and an “external” entity that is interested only in facilitating the establishment and preparation of appropriate relations in a group of potential partners. This facilitator should ensure that appropriate results are achieved in the following areas:
- • Bringing potential partners together,
- • Defining the scope of cooperation project/goal and expectations,
- • Specifying the criteria for successful cooperation (effects) - including the so-called “milestones”,
- • Determining the details of cooperation, especially in the area of leadership, roles, responsibility, scope of mutual support, and acquisition of resources outside the group of cooperating entities, communication, decision-making, timeframes, task prioritization, disputes, rewarding, and the method of performing the evaluation process,
- • Identifying all cooperation barriers and working out solutions to problems that may arise as a result,
- • Specifying elements that do not require cooperation between the entities involved in order to exist/operate properly, and
- • Obtaining an obligation to cooperate from each potential partner (under the conditions specified above) (Giesen, 2002).
Preparing an appropriate basis for establishing cooperation relations (e.g. cross-organizational cooperation relations) is only one side of the coin - the other is to prepare accurate and relevant criteria for evaluating the effects of such cooperation and, based on that, to identify factors that are most relevant for the successful completion of a given act of cooperation.
Gray (2000) proposed interesting and comprehensive perspectives for the evaluation of cooperation acts of varied nature. The solution proposed by Gray is an extension of the concept prepared and published by the same author and persons cooperating with her - according to the earlier version of the concept, three main types of cooperation effects may be distinguished: problem solutions, social-capital generation, and changes in the degree of institutionalization within the domain (Westley et al., 1999). This extended version includes five main perspectives for evaluating the effects of cooperation: problem resolution or goal achievement, generation of social capital, creation of shared meaning, changes in network structure, and shifts in the power distribution (Gray, 2000).
The first perspective for evaluating the effects of cooperation identified by Gray - problem resolution or goal achievement - presents the relatively most frequent way of looking at the achievements of cooperating entities. Therefore, the point of reference in this case may be the extent to which negative effects of the problem for the solution of which a specific group of cooperants has been established can be counteracted or the scope/range of generated positive effects that are noticeable in the area being the subject of cooperation. In the context of a CO, there are examples in favor of both the first and the second method of diagnosing cooperation effects: in terms of alleviating the negative effects of a specific problem, one can mention, e.g. reducing the costs of procurements from raw material suppliers (as groups of entities, COs are in a better bargaining position compared to a single company) or - among slightly less measurable ones - reducing the risk of bankruptcy caused by unwise business decisions (as a result of distributing responsibility and risk to the entire group of cluster entities). From the point of view of positive effects, attention should be paid to, e.g. an increase in the level of knowledge among cluster members focused on creating innovative solutions or, simply, an improvement of economic results of cluster companies that have jointly placed a new product/service on the market. In the research on Polish COs conducted by the authors several years ago (Lis & Lis, 2014a; 2014b), one of the topics was an attempt to determine the degree of meeting cluster members’ expectations towards a CO - this determination involved two questions: a question about the reasons for joining a CO, and then a question about the degree of fulfilling individual motivators during the membership period. This procedure is fully in line with the first perspective identified by Gray.
The second perspective for evaluating the effects of cooperation is to relate them to the creation and development of social capital, i.e. to the expansion of a network of relations in which cooperating entities operate. Importantly, social capital in this context is not autotelic but utilitarian in nature; the sheer fact of functioning in a wide network of relations has no value, frankly speaking. On the other hand, all to be achieved by the social capital at one’s disposal is valuable, i.e. the possibility of using various types of resources possessed by entities in a network. Bringing the Bourdieu’s concept into light once more, it should be stated that the effect of cooperation in the form of increased social capital is relevant due to the growing possibilities of converting it, i.e. changing it into resources typical of other types of capital identified by Bourdieu: economic, cultural, and symbolic (Bourdieu, 1986). The literature often combines the notion of social capital with trust (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000) - and indeed, social capital can easily be conceptualized using the term “trust”; however, this is not the only way to analyze this category (Lis &c Lis, 2014a; 2014b). Bringing social capital in the context of functioning in COs, one can argue that the sheer establishment of a CO - identifying and encouraging to participate in such an undertaking, followed by giving this initiative a common, supra- personal character effectively - is an excellent example of developing the social capital of the entities involved. The specific nature of the functioning of COs boosts the process of social capital development of each CO member extensively - each entity can not only add all remaining members to its network of relations, but also obtains access to the network of relations of each of them.
The starting point of the third perspective for evaluating cooperation is “creation of shared meaning”, which is difficult to operationalize. It can be assumed that each entity wishing to establish cooperation with other entities will have a unique vision of how such cooperation is to be maintained, how the problem area on which such cooperation would focus will be defined (e.g. developing an innovative solution to transmit electricity over long distances), what results are to be achieved (and how), etc. Despite the fact that cooperation is most likely to be established by those entities which determine that their visions are more or less similar, the uniqueness of these entities (and thus their visions) will still be a factor generating specific problems. However, as reality is created by actions in which individual meanings are expressed, in the course of carrying out these actions, these meanings may become increasingly common (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). COs are entities in which creating a common meaning seems to be slightly easier to achieve than in other social constructs composed of relatively independent components. The reason for such a particular predestination of COs to share world views and meanings is the unique nature of both the activities undertaken within their framework, as well as a certain natural selection of component entities made at the stage of formation of CO and the subsequent addition of new members to the already existing structure. It should be remembered that COs are clusters of cooperating and competing entities whose main goal is to achieve the so-called the synergy effect, i.e. a situation in which the joint effort of the entities involved will bring greater effects than the sum of individual efforts made by each of these entities separately. In order to achieve this goal, COs gather within them either entities similar to each other in certain respects (e.g. belonging to the same industry, representing a similar level of development, located close to each other), or complementary to each other (especially in terms of complementing industries or representing the same industry, but of a different link in the value chain characteristic for this industry). All these features mean that COs includes entities that have a lot in common at the outset - it is therefore relatively easier for them to further commonize meanings related to the area of operation of a CO.
The fourth perspective is “changes in network structure” is related, on the one hand, to the area of generating and developing social relations in the sense referred to in relation to social capital, and on the other hand (and this is at the same time the core of the discussed perspective) - to the structurally understood density of the network of objects remaining “within reach” of the analyzed entity (CO member). Gray - on the basis of research conducted by Van de Ven and Walker (1984)3 - proposed to study the effects of cooperation perceived in this way in the form of a double diagnosis of the state of the network of entities. This idea - although Gray’s publication was not in any fragment devoted to COs - is ideally suited for diagnosing “changes in network structure” within COs due to the naturally existing moment of “transition”: from a non- associated entity (not a cluster member) to a member entity. Comparison of the density of the entity’s network relations from the time before joining the CO (carried out, e.g. at the time of submitting a membership application to a given CO) with the density of the relation network after a specified time (e.g. 1 year, 2 years, etc.) allows the conclusion to be drawn that the membership in CO, at least to some extent, influenced the network of relations between members. Interestingly, following the reflections carried out by Provan and Milward (1995), it seems that networks integrated under the umbrella of one strong entity are more effective than decentralized networks; moreover, increasing the number of integration centers (e.g. in the form of a locally integrated network) reduces the effectiveness of the entire network. The monitoring and control mechanisms in the network must be similarly strong, unambiguous, and from one direction (strong central entity). It is also easier to achieve greater network efficiency in stable and resource-rich networks (Provan & Milward, 1995). COs are organizations with a very different structure (some are built around one strong central entity, others are a conglomerate of small, relatively equal entities) - also very different from each other not only in terms of the number of members, but also their retention and/or rotation. Therefore, a large variation in the structure and functioning of COs makes them attractive objects for research using the discussed assessment perspective.
The last perspective for Gray’s evaluation of cooperation includes “shifts in the power distribution”. However, since, in principle, every act of cooperation causes specific changes in the sphere of power, it becomes important to determine the desired direction of these changes - a direction which, if adopted by a group of cooperating entities, will allow a positive assessment of the transformations taking place in the sphere of power. This is the direction already mentioned by Gray in one of her earlier publication - in her opinion, “the power dynamics associated with collaboration generally involve a shift from the kind of unequal distribution of power associated with elitist decision-making to more participative, equally shared access to the decision-making arena” (Gray, 1989, p. 120). It can, therefore, be concluded that a positive assessment of the effects of cooperation in the field of “shifts in the power distribution” will depend on whether the cooperation of a specific group of entities has equalized the opportunities available to each of them in the area of broadly understood power. COs are constructed in a way that favors the participation of members in various activities undertaken as part of CO - including decision-making processes and strategic plans. Even if there is an entity acting as a coordinator in CO, it does not have real power over other members, but is more a guarantor of the implementation of decisions taken jointly (or at least among those members of the CO who are active and committed). The observations of the authors of this publication reveal (and this will be underlined later in the book) that in many COs, the problem is not the distribution of power, but the unequal involvement of member entities, which stems from the reasons for joining a CO (some participants are only interested in the fact of being a cluster member, but have no intention of actively participating in the activities of this CO, including the decision-making processes occurring in it).
The assessment of the effectiveness of cooperation - regardless of in which of the above outlined perspectives would be made - is to determine the degree of success with which a specific cooperation process will end. It is therefore obvious that there will be factors conducive to the positive completion of the cooperation process (success factors, catalysts), as well as factors hindering the fulfillment of a positive scenario, and thus increasing the probability of failure (inhibitors). From the point of view of cooperation effectiveness, it is, of course, advisable to focus on success factors and maximize the chances of their occurrence. Mattessich and Monsey (1992) presented a classic analysis of factors that positively influence the chances of success of a specific cooperation process, drawing conclusions from a broad analysis of scientific literature devoted to cooperation, including the role that various factors played in the positive or negative outcome of cooperation of a specific group of collaborators. In the first edition of the above-mentioned publication, the authors distinguished 19 factors that had a positive impact on the successful completion of the cooperation of a specific group of entities (Mattessich 8c Monsey, 1992); in the second edition, there were 20 of them (Mattessich et ah, 2001), and in the third edition - 22 (Mattessich 8c Johnson, 2018).
In the most classical view of factors contributing to the process of cooperation, Mattessich and Monsey (1992) grouped the features distinguished by them into six main categories: Environment, Membership Characteristics, Process/Structure, Communication, Purpose, and Resources.
Factors within the Environment category refer to the specific nature of the place (in terms of geography), and to the social context in which a group of cooperating entities is anchored. Among characteristic environmental features, the following features of particular significance for achieving positive effects of a given cooperation process are listed: (A) “History of collaboration or cooperation in the community”, (B) “Collaborative group seen as a leader in the community”, and (C) “Political/social climate favorable”. Factor A means that initiating and effectively conducting cooperation is naturally easier among entities that have previously been grounded in the context of cooperation - as they are conversant with the specific nature of engaging in and carrying out activities with others, they are able to assume the appropriate roles, and they are aware of the expectations and threats that the participants of cooperation are faced with. Factor B, in turn, stresses the significance of perceiving members of the cooperating group as leaders - at least in the field which is the subject of cooperation. Absence of such legitimation may act as an inhibitor, which is why creating an appropriate image of the cooperating entities in the broader public from which these entities originate, or which would be the subject of changes related to the effects achieved within such cooperation, is an important element of the initial phases of the cooperation process. Factor C stresses the role in the ef- fectivity of cooperation played by favorable attitude of political and social leaders influential for the cooperation process. At this point, it is worth highlighting the fact that the social and political climate in which the cooperation process is, and will be taking place, has a dynamic nature, hence the cooperating entities should on an ongoing basis monitor the attitude of key players to their enterprise, and seek to promptly bring about changes in any possible negative trends.
It seems that COs are particularly sensitive to the presence of factors A and C because cluster cooperation is a very peculiar type of cooperation, which is definitely much more demanding than acts of cooperation in the classical interpretation. What makes cooperation in COs so specific is combining entities that not only act as cooperants, but at the same time are competitors. Furthermore, due to the fact that COs are most frequently established by entities localized on a similar area, the competitive pressure is greater than in the case of cooperation of entities operating on local markets that are distant from one another. This situation means that in terms of history and experiences which a local community (including also enterprises and other organizations that could potentially be included in a CO) have gone through and developed in the field of in- terorganizational cooperation, but also in terms of the attitudes of social and political leaders compatible with these experiences, the requirements for these factors should be higher than in the case of “standard” acts of cooperation.
The second group of factors represents the category of Membership Characteristics, grouping features (skills, attitudes, opinions) of entities forming larger cooperating totalities and the specific nature of these totalities (for example, elements of their culture). This group includes: (D) “Mutual respect, understanding, and trust”, (E) “Appropriate cross section of members”, (F) “Members see collaboration as in their self- interest” and (G) “Ability to compromise”. Factor D points out how significant it is for the members of a cooperating group to demonstrate some extent of openness to otherness, manifesting itself in showing respect to other partners, understanding the specific nature of the functioning of their parent organizations, and also of their possibilities and goals, as well as trust - although this element requires some time to be formed. In fact, one more factor - honesty - could be added to this group, since its absence would make it impossible to form the aforementioned characteristics. Only relationships founded on genuine attitudes and factual information will produce the desired effect. Factor E underlines the necessity of ensuring that the group of cooperating entities includes representatives of every group whom the effects of this cooperation, and activities leading to achieving these effects, may concern. In this context, it becomes necessary to monitor the environment for new valuable partners; however, temperance in this respect is necessary - too large a group, even of entities willing to cooperate, will be difficult to manage. Factor F strongly stresses the necessity to create, in the members of the cooperating group, a sense of “profitability” of participation in a given cooperation process - each partner should be convinced that the invested costs and efforts will be compensated by the effects planned at the stage of cooperation initiation. In other words, it is advisable for each cooperating entity to have its own interest in carrying out the cooperation process in accordance with the previously made assumptions (or not to hesitate to invest additional resources if unforeseen difficulties arise). Factor G, in turn, indicates that entities connected through a cooperation relationship should not make hasty, knee-jerk, impulsive decisions, and that they should prefer patience and working out together as the most adequate solution. It will also be a step in the right direction not to formulate inflexible expectations or rigid rules of cooperation, and to leave a significant dose of flexibility for the operating entities instead.
The factors grouped as “Members Characteristics” should be inherent attributes of members of each of the operating COs. Without developing the features of “Mutual respect, understanding, and trust” it will be impossible to create a favorable atmosphere for carrying out even a minor act of cooperation - partners will be focusing on what differs them from one another instead of focusing on what unites them. Ensuring the “Appropriate cross section of members” is vital also from the perspective of sheer business (entities which represent different links in the value chain, or are complementary to existing members), as well as from the perspective of the effects of cooperation to the broader community (for example a region) in which a CO is grounded (the involvement of local government and central authorities, non-government organizations, individual activists). The “Members see collaboration as in their self- interest” factor is necessary for evoking and maintaining involvement of the cooperating cluster members in a particular cooperation process. Since each CO includes passive entities whose role is limited to that of mere acceptors of the effects attained due to involvement of other members, it is important to keep balance in the involvement in CO on the part of active, not passive users. “Ability to compromise” is a feature useful in most social situations which an entity or group will encounter- hence, it also (or particularly) plays a significant role in a CO which will as well operate outside the area included in a given cooperation process (usually a CO is a structure whose duration is longer than the time of cooperation concerning a particular project of some of the entities constituting this CO).
Features included in “Process/Structure”, referring to the way of management and decision making within a cooperating group of entities, were put by Mattessich and Monsey into the third category. This category includes such factors as: (H) “Members share a stake in both process and outcome”, (I) “Multiple layers of decision-making”, (J) “Flexibility”, (K) “Development of clear roles and policy guidelines”, (F) “Adaptability”, and (M) “Appropriate pace of development” (this factor appeared in the 2nd edition: Mattessich et al., 2001). The presence of Factor H can actually be treated as the strengthening of Factor F (“Members see collaboration as in their self-interest”), and, more precisely, bestowing Factor F with the features of formally existing procedures and informally applied principles. At the heart of Factor H is providing the entities involved in a given cooperation process with real and perceptible “ownership” of both the process itself (that is with a sense of being in control of, for example, decision-making), and its effects. Factor I underscores the significance of a multi-layer approach to the decision-making process: it is important that decisions concerning future steps that set out the direction of the cooperation between the entities involved should be made with the participation of representatives of all levels of management - not only leaders (for example, enterprise owners), but also individuals representing the high, middle, and low level in the hierarchy of each entity. A way of management of a cooperation constructed in this way will connect the cooperating organizations more powerfully than it would in the case of merely connecting their leaders. The presence of Factor J adds the necessary lack of rigidity to the features presented so far - given that social life is becoming increasingly complex in its every dimension, and conditions change faster than ever, it is a feature necessary for effectively carrying out the cooperation process (especially processes in a long, at least several years’ time perspective). Flexibility is essential for modifying the structure of cooperation, methods of achieving goals, and also for adapting goals to a dynamically changing environment. Factor К is a manifestation of the transparency of decisions made and of the unambiguity of arrangements made in every sphere of cooperation: the division of roles, rights, and responsibilities, and the choice of measures deployed for achieving the assumed goals. Significant is the fact that such clear divisions should be made at as early stage of cooperation as possible, with taking into account the potential and interests of all partners involved - if such arrangements are made without respecting these elements, then individual preferences of particular entities will anyway become obvious at later stages of cooperation. The role of Factor F, in turn, consists in supporting Factor J (“Flexibility'”) and drawing attention to the need of constant monitoring of the environment and adapting both goals and the list of cooperation partners to the continually changing conditions. Factor M (“Appropriate pace of development”) involves the perception of the development of the potential of cooperating partners.
The above-mentioned structural and process factors to a great extent overlap with the contemporary perspective of designing and putting in practice cooperation between entities forming COs. The structure of each CO is flexible and offers some possibilities to adapt to the changing conditions of the environment. Flowever, the efficiency with which a CO adapts to new conditions will depend on individual involvement of its members. The said involvement will also constitute a significant variable when analyzing Factors FI and К - both of them make sense only with the assumption that a given entity is willing to participate in the cooperation process. Also the findings of own study (presented by the authors of this publication in Chapter 5) confirm the significance of involvement for joint activities undertaken within a CO.
The fourth category of success factors increasing the probability' of effective completion of a given cooperation process is “Communication”. This group of factors includes all features related to conducting proper communication between the cooperating entities: Factor N “Open and frequent communication” and Factor О “Established informal and formal communication links”. Factor N refers to the necessity of developing communication standards within a cooperating group. It is of importance that such standards should be determined at the earliest possible stage of cooperation and that they should reflect the natural differences that may exist in the domain of communication between different entities. Introducing incentives to using various ways of effective communication and - depending on the size, potential, and needs of a cooperating group - assigning a function dedicated to taking care of communication issues in the group of entities involved in cooperation, may be a useful element in construing this factor. Factor О (“Established informal and formal communication links”) introduces significant - from the perspective of creating an effective communication system in a group - distinction to formal and informal communication path. A formal communication path will primarily include official information and messages addressed to all entities involved in a given cooperation process; an informal communication path will remain outside the official control of the group, and it will be formed by the partners during spontaneous individual meetings. Therefore, the significance of both of these paths dictates the importance of ensuring in a group of cooperating entities occasions for not only official and formal exchange of knowledge and information (e.g. industry conferences, official working meetings in a group of partners, etc.), but also providing conditions for developing private, informal relationships.
The communication aspects considered when reflecting upon the success factors belonging to the “Communication” group play a crucial role in the functioning of each CO. The particular emphasis placed by COs on communication within their own structure results from the fact that - as demonstrated by the findings of studies conducted by the authors of this publication (presented in Chapter 5) - cooperation in COs assumes many forms simultaneously (due to the formation of subgroups - task or project subgroups, or subgroups that are connected with strong positive personal bonds). This means that firstly - the communication system in COs has to be suited to highly diversified requirements and secondly - the objective of such a communication system has to consist not only in responding to a diversity of needs of “interest” subgroups within a CO, but also (and perhaps above all), in the ability to integrate particular elements of a CO (subgroups, individual cluster members) into one relatively effectively functioning totality. COs take care to provide opportunities for using formal communication paths, but also to provide the conditions for creating informal occasions to engage in and foster relationships between cluster members. Formal communication paths include official mailing to members, periodic meetings of members, training sessions, conferences, etc., and informal communication paths include study visits combined with team building events, travelling to trade fairs and trade expositions, and a number of initiatives undertaken by cluster members themselves, to which selected cluster partners are invited.
The fifth group of success factors distinguished by Mattessich and Monsey is related to the “Purpose” category and it includes all the aspects of cooperation that should be clearly defined and mutually worked out at the earliest possible stage of designing the entire process - main assumptions, the justification of developing the cooperation process, key tasks, and expected effects. All of these elements were included in the factors: (P) “Concrete, attainable goals and objectives”, (Q) “Shared vision”, and (R) “Unique purpose”. Factor P (“Concrete, attainable goals and objectives”) means the need to properly define goals and tasks within a cooperating group: both goals and tasks should be clear and attainable, and they should be divided to short and long-term ones (in terms of time needed for their attainment) - because this is the only division that renders cooperation attractive for partners and will constitute an incentive for continuous involvement in activities undertaken by the cooperating group. Partners should report, on a regular basis, the progress of work within the tasks assigned to them. Factor Q - “Shared vision” - refers to the need of defining, in a way which is clear and shared by all entities involved, the vision of cooperation, and the mission and goals stemming from it. At this stage, it is advisable to use assistance of external professionals and openly counteract any inequalities in the distribution of power that could be noticed among cooperants. Factor R (“Unique purpose”) points to the fact that mission and goals of the project within which the cooperation will take place differ - albeit to an extent enabling at least intersection - from the mission and goals pursued by individual cooperants. The part formed as a result of the overlapping of individual missions and goals should constitute the sphere of activity of the cooperants; it is, however, inadvisable for the shared sphere of activity to entirely coincide with the mission and goals of one entity, or just a group of cooperants. Additionally, the goal of cooperation should not be identical with the object of pursuit of a group of competing entities, as they will lack a sufficient incentive for engaging in activities the effects of which may be beneficial for their competition.
COs are entities in which the factors listed under the “Purpose” group should be considered at two levels: that of the entire CO and all its current members, as well as at the level of various subgroups which formed as part of a given CO. The level involving the entire CO will inevitably lead to a situation in which the entities formulating the mission, vision, and goals of this organization will have to use a much broader perspective than in the case of analogical actions in one of the task or project subgroups. The reason for which in the context of the entire CO, its mission, vision, and goals should be determined from quite a broad perspective is a greater number of members as compared with task or project subgroups, as well as a higher diversity of the profiles of such entities. This is due to the fact that while a single-task subgroup can include entities quite similar as to their specific nature and expectations, in the perspective of the entire CO it should also be considered that its members may include entities as different from one another as local- government authorities, higher education institutions, non-government organizations, enterprises (of different size, potential, and operating in different sectors), as well as a variety of business environment institutions. An additional aspect that should be noted at the level of the entire CO is the possibility of joining new members in the future - therefore the mission, vision, and goals of a CO have to be defined in sufficiently broad and general terms, and at the same time, they have to be specific and concrete, so as to provide room for its current members, but also leave some space for entities which will join the CO later. In project/task subgroups formulating such expectations is rather easier.
The last - sixth - group of success factors distinguished by Mattessich and Monsey (1992) is the “Resources” category, which includes factors related to resources necessary to establish and develop a group of cooperating entities - both in financial and human resources terms. This category is divided into two main areas: Factor S - “Sufficient funds” and Factor T - “Skilled convener”. Factor S stresses the importance of providing an appropriate financial basis for cooperation from the very beginning of a joint project. In addition to the material resources provided by the participants of a given cooperation process themselves, it is also important to seek external sources of funding. Importantly, aid obtained in a material (non-financial) form should be considered equal to financial aid by cooperating entities. Factor T stimulates interest in human resources and, more specifically, in the role of the leader of a cooperating group. The person/entity initiating cooperation in a given area should have high organizational and interpersonal skills, be honest, and know the specific nature of the area that is to become the subject of cooperation. Careful thought should be given to the selection of the leader. Although possible, changing leaders may still cause certain problems (slowing down ongoing processes, conflicts associated with the redistribution of the entire authority or part thereof in the cooperating group).
COs use both Factors S and T; without an adequate financial basis, no organization would be able to operate - COs are no exception. The ability to find appropriate sources of financing the activity of COs is one of the most essential abilities when it comes to clusters. Due to different degrees of involvement of individual cluster members (and, often, large discrepancy in their resource potential), many COs mainly seek external sources of financing for projects carried out by cluster entities. The entity being a “convener”, which is often referred to as a “coordinator” in COs, plays a major role in this process. The cluster coordinator tries to be as objective as possible when managing the activities of a CO as well as seeks additional sources of financing. Still, the main role of the coordinator is to create conditions that facilitate mutual contact between entities forming a CO and to inspire them to turn meetings and personal relations into joint goals and initiatives.
The third edition of “Cooperation. What makes it work?” (Mattessich 8c Johnson, 2018) added 2 new Factors to the 20 Factors discussed above: Factor U - “Evaluation Continuous Learning” and Factor V - “Engaged stakeholders”. Factor U emphasizes the importance of making regular summaries of activities undertaken in a cooperating group - creating a code of good practices based on successful experiences and activities as well as drawing conclusions from the activities that failed for certain reasons. It should be stressed that the learning process is not finite - during its functioning, each entity will face situations that it has never been in before (particularly now, where the speed and range of changes taking place in the world - including the economy - is greater than ever). Factor V - “Engaged stakeholders” - responds to the contemporary expectations of the environment and encourages entities engaged in a specific cooperation process to consider the expectations and opinions coming from the representatives of these groups that may in any way be affected by the cooperation process or may themselves affect the cooperation process and the goals achieved through it.
COs implement the aforementioned two success factors to a varying extent. For Factor V, this is somewhat easier to do because the form of a CO is naturally conductive to the creation of a forum for exchanging ideas of different groups of stakeholders. It is a CO that is to unite the world of business, science, public administration of various levels, nongovernmental organizations, and business environment institutions. Factor U - “Evaluation &c Continuous Learning” - will emerge in COs in different ways: it will be dependent on both the general attitude of cluster members and the cluster coordinator and the needs and expectations of members of individual task/project groups operating in a CO.
The factors influencing successful cooperation, dimensions of the evaluation of cooperation effectiveness, components of the process of initiating cooperation, forms that cooperation between different entities may take, and terminological findings that more precisely specify boundaries between terms used to describe joint activities undertaken by a group of entities constitute the first section of this chapter. However, these issues are not exhaustive; it is also essential to present holistic and coherent theories of cooperation that take into account a broader perspective and reflect differences in perceiving cooperation that have emerged based on management science and - generally speaking - social sciences and commercial practice. The further section of this chapter will be devoted to these issues.