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Cultural Competence and Institutional Contradictions: The Hydropower Referendum

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This study explores a corporate campaign to pass a referendum to enable the development of a hydropower plant in a small Swedish community. In the changing institutional context that grounds this case, the organization needed to develop communicative practices that embodied “cultural competence,” a set of processes identified as critical for the legitimacy and success of business organizations in the emerging global/intersectoral environment. Findings suggest that the MNC's communication strategy captured important components of cultural competence. However, institutional contradictions impeded enactment of the strategy and resulted in delegitimizing paradoxical communication. The results indicate that organizational awareness of institutional change and culturally competent strategy are insufficient without special attention to contradictions and resultant communicative paradoxes embodied within a particular institutional context. The importance of a reflective communication approach that engages contradictions and tensions in the surrounding micro–macro institutional contexts is underscored.
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Keywords: Contradictions; Cultural Competence; Institutional Change; Organizational Communication; Paradox

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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