His Master’s Voice? Conceptualizing the Relationship Between Business and the World Economic Forum

  • Christina Garsten
  • Adrienne Sörbom
Keywords: corporations, funding, think tanks, agency, World Economic Forum


Commonly, the relationship between corporations and non-for profit organizations, such as foundations, think tanks and private research institutes, is analyzed in terms suggesting that when acting as funders corporations set the frames for the non-for profit organization who, in turn, not only mimics but also serves as to broadcast the views of its funder. Drawing on the case of the Swizz based foundation/think tank World Economic Forum and its corporate funders we scrutinize this relationship. We show that as an organization interested in global policy making it is of vital importance for the Forum to construct its own agency, not merely giving voice to its funder’s views, and that it will do so drawing on the resources that the funders provide. Moreover, we submit that as organizations all partaking actors will endeavor to construct their own agency, oftentimes by drawing on the resources of others. In so doing, actors may have both overlapping and divergent interests. Evoking the Lévi-Strauss concept of the bricoleur, we analyze how the various and multifaceted priorities of corporations will not only be filtered by the Form, but it will also make use of the resources at hand for organizing forth own policy messages. The result is a complex and dynamic web of actors and voices.


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