Abstract for: The Micro-Dynamics of Network Leverage: Implications for Change Agents External to an Organization

Much of the impact of a policy depends on how it is implemented, especially as mediated by organizations such as schools, hospitals, or law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, implementation depends on each organizationís capacity to absorb innovations based on its culture, routines, and leadership. Here we extend the concept of absorptive capacity to include the intra-organizational social dynamics that occur during the diffusion or implementation of an innovation. In particular, we attend to the potential for intra-organizational polarization along pre-existing lines. We then use agent based models to examine the interplay of intra-organizational social dynamics and the external change agent who seeks to direct the organization by introducing venues which contain information encouraging specific behaviors. We find that when organizational members are salient to one another, external change agents who attempt to direct organizations by introducing strongly oriented venues (e.g., professional development emphasizing specific practices) may unintentionally accentuate existing cleavages in the organizational network, inhibiting full implementation of the immediate policy as well as reducing organizational capacity to implement future innovations. Thus the external change agent should consider the short term interaction with the intra-organizational social dynamics as well as the organizationís longer term absorptive capacity.