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Social Networks and Performance in Food Chains and Networks

Track Coordinators: Jacques Trienekens (Wageningen University) 

The netchain approach views companies as embedded in a complex of horizontal, vertical and business support relationships with other companies and other organizations supporting inputs and services (such as advisory services, credit facilitators). The social network approach adds the social-cultural and institutional business environment to the netchain perspective.

        We welcome studies where horizontal and vertical perspectives are integrated in a social network approach. Specific topics of interest for this track are (but do not exclude other research areas):

        (1) Social capital and business performance in food chains and networks.
The embeddeness of food chain actors in a network of social relationships can provide them with the social capital to strengthen their position in the chain. Since the 1990s, social capital theory has become an important branch within the social network approach. Network relations may enhance the “social capital” of a company, by making it feasible to get easier access to information, technical know-how and financial support and by encouraging knowledge transfer between network partners, thereby reducing transaction costs and improving access to markets. Social capital has been studied extensively in both developed as well as developing country business environments and its value is strongly related to the social-cultural and institutional environment of the food chain/network. Contributions including business environment relationships are especially welcomed for this topic.

        (2) Trust and reputation in food chains and networks.
According to social network theory, relationships are not only shaped by economic considerations; other concepts like trust, reputation and power also have key impact on the structure and duration of intercompany relationships. Trust and reputation may play an important role in both horizontal and vertical relationships in food chains and networks. Trust is dependent on the duration of a relationship, consistency of exchanges between parties and (economic and social) reputation. Trust and reputation can replace more formalized governance mechanisms and positively impact on collaboration performance in terms of product quality, delivery performance and costs. Contributions with a network perspective on trust and reputation are especially welcomed for this topic.

        (3) Network relationships and knowledge exchange in food chains and networks.
Strong ties and network cohesion are important for transfer of complex and tacit knowledge; whereas weak ties and structural holes which bridge organizational boundaries are important for the acquisition of diverse, new knowledge, potentially leading to innovation and innovativeness. Intensity and frequency of network relationships may positively impact on innovative power and outcome of food businesses. Acquisition, assimilation, transformation and exploitation of knowledge external to the company make up the absorptive and learning capacity of the company. Contributions focusing on network relationships of food businesses and/or absorptive or learning capacity and their impact on business performance are especially welcomed for this topic.




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