Biased by design – the case of horizontal accountability in a hybrid organization

Tomi Rajala, Petra Kokko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose –This study examines unexplored horizontal accountability types between public, private and third sector actors within a hybrid organization. The case organization was applying a novel alliance model to generate service paths for heterogeneous clientele consuming cultural, educational, health and social services. It was first to do so in Finland.
Design/methodology/approach –This research is on a case study that used documents and interviews to examine the design of the horizontal accountability. The descriptive analysis focused on identifying what type of formal accountability system was designed (i.e. who is the account holder, and who is accountable and for what and why).
Findings – An imbalanced accountability system was identified because accountability obligations were unevenly distributed between public, private and third sector actors. The private sector was the most accountable for performance, and the third sector (i.e. voluntary sector) was the least accountable. As account holders, the public, private and third sector actors were judging their conduct as account providers. This created a biased horizontal accountability system. The hybrid’s accountability system was dynamic because the contracts made to establish the hybrid included opportunities to change horizontal accountability if future changes to the external environment affect too drastically the potential to achieve the hybrid’s goals.
Originality/value – Three new concepts are proposed for studying dysfunctional accountability systems: dynamic, biased and horizontally imbalanced accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Accountability
  • Hybrid organisation
  • Account holder
  • Account-giving
  • Answerability
  • Horizontal accountability

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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