Who has a stake? How stakeholder processes influence partnership sustainability

Mary-Ellen Boyle
Laurie Ross
Jennie C. Stephens


As universities attempt to expand their relevance by engaging with local and regional societal challenges, various kinds of partnerships are emerging. A broad range of stakeholders, from both the university and the community, are typically engaged in and influence the development, implementation and perpetuation of these partnerships. This paper juxtaposes analysis of three community-university partnerships in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, paying particular attention to the partnerships’ stakeholders, and to their relative importance. This research builds upon current understandings of critical factors in partnership sustainability, as these three partnerships have different goals, involve different university and community stakeholders, and are at different points in their organisational history. The fact that they share the same context – the same city – offers a unique opportunity for comparative case study analysis. The theory of stakeholder salience is used to explain findings about partnership sustainability and to make suggestions for strengthening existing partnerships. Specifically, we argue that stakeholder power and legitimacy, along with stakeholder urgency, are key factors in sustaining community-university partnerships.

Community-university partnerships; economic development; community development; stakeholder salience

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ijcre.v4i0.1778