Boundary spanners and calculative practices

Pinar Guven-Uslu, Zlatinka Blaber, Pawan Adhikari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This paper questions to what extent particular calculative practices used for inter-organisational decision-making help or hinder boundary spanners meet performativity ideals. It uses programmatic rationalities of government as a framework to study reciprocity between them and the conditions of performativity. Empirical data were collected from healthcare commissioning spaces of English National Health Service (NHS). Data triangulation was achieved through documentary analysis, data collected through interviews, and observation notes taken in local commissioning meetings and national conferences. Findings revealed an apparent lack of reciprocity between programmatic rationality and calculative practices surrounding the commissioning activities of boundary spanners. As a consequence, in local commissioning situations boundary spanners with formal roles used calculative practices differently than semi-formal boundary spanners. Unlike their formal counterparts, who used mainly accounting information in their calculative practices, semi-formal boundary spanners incorporated non-accounting information and devised alternative calculative practices. In addition, while formal boundary spanners on NHS Committees used calculative practices in maintaining clear boundaries between commissioning and provider organisations, semi-formal boundary spanners made use of the data of both parties in order to reach inter organisational decisions. The study has three main contributions. First, it differentiates boundary spanners and explains differences in their interaction with calculative practices. Second, it introduces the concept of reciprocity to inter-organisational studies in accounting. Third, it shows how conditions of performativity reflected in micro-settings influenced how semi-formal boundary spanners used calculative practices (and other supplementary information) to achieve performance ideals of government programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-460
Number of pages22
JournalFinancial Accountability and Management
Issue number4
Early online date13 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • boundary spanners
  • calculative practices
  • commissioning
  • decision-making
  • healthcare
  • inter-organisational

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