An actor-network theory study of public sector inter-organisational collaboration

  • Stephen Piper

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The literature on inter-organisational collaboration, although wide-ranging, offers little guidance on collaboration as process. It focuses in the main on human attributes like leadership, trust and agency, but gives little consideration to the role of objects in the development of inter-organisational collaborations. A central aim of this thesis is to understand the interaction of objects and humans in the development of a particular health and social care partnership in the North East of England. This socio-material perspective was achieved through actor-network theory (ANT) as a methodology, in which the researcher is equally sensitised to the role of human and non-human entities in the development of a network.
The case study is that of the North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus (CTP). This was a unique health and social care collaboration arrangement between North East Lincolnshire Council and North East Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust, setup to address heath inequalities in the region. The CTP was conceived and developed at a local level by the respective organisation’s decision makers in the face of considerable opposition from regional policy makers and national regulators. However, despite this opposition, the directors eventually achieved their goal and the CTP became operational on 1st September 2007. This study seeks to understand how the CTP was conceived and developed, in the face of this opposition.
The thesis makes a number of original contributions. Firstly, it adds to the current body of literature on collaboration by identifying how objects can help problematize issues and cement inter-organisational collaborations. Secondly it provides a novel account describing how two public sector organisations created a unique collaboration, despite pressing resistance from the regulatory authorities; and thirdly it extends Callon’s (1996) notion of problematization to examine how, what is rather vaguely described as ‘context’ in the literature, becomes enmeshed in decisions to collaborate.
Date of Award3 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKaren A West (Supervisor) & Alan D Lowe (Supervisor)


  • health and social care
  • public health
  • innovation
  • primary care trust
  • local authority
  • sociology of translation
  • actor-network theory

Cite this