From Symbolic Commitment to “Skin in the Game”: Collective Action and Institutional Formation through Problem Solving
Creating institutions that deliver collective beneﬁts requires collaboration across multiple organizations. To overcome a key challenge –finding common ground amidst conﬂicting interests– a degree of ambiguity through setting wide-ranging goals is needed to induce collaboration. But the enabling characteristics of ambiguity are likely to become problematic when institutionalizing agreements, leading to symbolic commitment. We use a longitudinal process study of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, a global multi-party agreement to end the series of deadly accidents in the Bangladesh garment sector, and draw from a pragmatist perspective. Findings highlight the ongoing problem-solving nature of institutional formation in a complex, evolving and politically contested ﬁeld. Participants continually confront ambiguity as they attempt to translate the agreement into a new institutional practice. Political conﬂict led parties to grow “skin in the game”, which led commitment to escalate beyond initial self-commitment.
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