Cross-sector social partnerships are often studied from a macro and meso perspective, also in an attempt to assess effectiveness and societal impact. This paper pays specific attention to the micro perspective, i.e. individual interactions between and within organizations related to partnerships that address the ‘social good’. By focusing on the potential effects and mechanisms at the level of individuals and the organization(s) with which they interact, it aims to help fill a gap in research on partnerships, including more insight into the process of interaction. We conceptually explore microlevel interactions, and how partnership effects may ‘trickle down’ (e.g. from management to employees), or ‘trickle up’ (from employees to management), or ‘trickle round’ (e.g. between employees). Based on literature from various disciplines, we discuss how more generic theories on social exchange and contagion, social learning and attraction-selection-attrition can help shed light on micro-level interactions in a partnership, considering in particular transmission mechanisms via employees, top and middle management, and customers. In this way, partnerships can have wider benefits, as individuals have multiple roles and effects at the micro level can spread to the meso and macro levels as well. Implications for research and practice are outlined.

Research Paper