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 finalisation. In spring 2017, we finished a first analysis of the online survey among the secretary generals of industry associations and their member companies in six industry branches. We presented and discussed our results at a project workshop with experts from business associations and academia. A final examination of the survey data, including additional structural and organisational data collected in summer 2017, is near completion. About 30 interviews with carefully selected representatives of business associations provide additional insight into actor’s rationalities and belief systems. The final project report will be ready in spring 2018.

Fact sheet

Fritz Thyssen Foundation
2015 to 2019
Data Sources: 
survey, interviews and document analysis
Geographic Space: 
Germany, EU