Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Public Service

Committee Director

John C. Morris

Committee Member

Katrina L. Miller-Stevens

Committee Member

John R. Lombard

Committee Member

Tancy Vandecar-Burdin


Collaboration and other forms of interaction between complex arrangements of private, nonprofit, and public organizations to address challenging policy problems now occurs routinely. In many cases collaboration is mandated by law, and often disbursement of grants to nonprofits is contingent upon demonstrating collaboration with other organizations. To understand this contemporary landscape of public administration and develop cumulative knowledge, theory requires reliable and valid constructs of collaboration and other forms of interorganizational interaction. Theoretical rigor then underpins practice, including the growing discipline of evaluating the level of interaction between organizations or an organization’s “collaborative capacity,” and to understand more broadly how public administrators should best lead, manage and interact in complex multiorganizational situations.

This dissertation reviews the approaches to conceptualization and operationalization of interorganizational interaction in the public administration literature. While many frameworks, typologies and arrays have been offered, few have been tested empirically. Furthermore, the literature incorporates a widely stated but untested notion that interactions between organizations can be placed on a “continuum” of intensity or integration.

Using insights from previously developed systems-based frameworks and arrays, this research creates a generalized interorganizational interaction array (GIIA) that conceptualizes and operationalizes three forms of interaction common in public administration literature: cooperation, coordination and collaboration. From a sample of over 200 interorganizational interactions between national and international defense organizations, the GIIA is tested using cluster analysis to determine: the extent to which collaboration, coordination and cooperation are observed; which variables are most important in differentiating interaction states, and to explore the concept of a continuum of interaction.