Inter-organizational Ties, Community, And the Emergence of an Oyster Industry In New Hampshire

Emily Whitmore, Thomas Safford


Through in-depth interviews with New Hampshire oyster farmers, this study examines how inter-organizational relations—in community form—can help emergent industries address challenges and collectively thrive. By examining the four main sources of uncertainty identified by the farmers, we are able to understand the way in which the farmers utilize their community to reduce those uncertainties. Their community functions as an inter-organizational network, where member participation is based on long-term, intangible benefits that complicate a simple instrumental exchange model. These benefits include open access to a pool of knowledge, sociopolitical legitimacy that enables regulatory influence, the existence of strong, community-wide norms that help to ensure high standards of quality and safety, and a buffering of opportunistic behavior in the event of a market fluctuation.

Keywords: communities of practice, inter-organizational networks, uncertainty, risk management, aquaculture, oyster aquaculture

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.