Coping with Change: The Re-Organisation of German Business Associations

Research question/goal: 

The comparative analysis of 165 business interest associations from German industry aims to identify the logic behind the reorganisation of collective interests in response to changing context conditions. The project examines the organisational structures within which interests are selected, bundled, processed, and transformed into influence strategies.

The theoretical assumption is that the organisation and reorganisation of associations are not a mere response to functional requirement and that actors are guided by specific institutional, instrumental and normative rationalities.

The project draws upon previous studies and thus also captures the change of associations over time and the close link with corresponding reorganisations at European level.

The empirical study is carried out on the basis of a written survey, interviews and document analysis. The (online) survey will collect information on the kind and the degree of the perceived pressure as well as on the character of the intended reforms. The question is which reforms are considered compatible with a given organisation, its available instruments, and the prevailing beliefs about legitimacy. Through interviews the relevance of the rationalities will be critically examined and the actual reform efforts ascertained.

Current stage: 

The project is currently in the stage of data collection. We completed the search for documents relating to research the institutional settings and the organisational changes of associations representing six important industrial sectors in Germany (chemistry/pharmacy, electrical engineering/electronics, food/drink, mechanical engineering, metal working, and garment/textile). In addition, we conducted an online survey targeted at the secretaries general of all sector and sub-sector associations at national and Länder level as well as at member companies. Furthermore, we started interviews to check the validity of previous research findings concerning the explanatory variables and to gain a solid interpretation of the survey statements about strategy preferences. Further interviews are being prepared.

Fact sheet

Fritz Thyssen Foundation
2015 to 2018
Data Sources: 
survey, interviews and document analysis
Geographic Space: 
Germany, EU