In this report on work in progress, we describe our efforts to create an account of a project aimed at building a website to support sustainable community development in coffee-growing regions. The system will provide match-making between NGOs running development projects and coffee roasters who are seeking to help fund such projects. The new information system will also provide a means for participants to report on other sustainability-related activities in which they are engaged. The Specialty Coffee Association of American (SCAA), an industry association of some 4000 coffee roasters and related firms, provides the larger institutional context for this initiative. The SCAA is a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations, a program that specifies a set of eight objectives intended to improve conditions in under-developed parts of the world. The SCAA’s new system is envisioned as the principal mechanism for both facilitating and representing the SCAA community’s engagement in fostering the MDGs. As the project and the resulting system will bring together a complex set of heterogeneous interests, including a mix of for-profit firms and not-for-profit organizations, we have chosen actor-network theory (ANT) as the theoretical and methodological foundation for developing our account. ANT offers a powerful strategy for tracing the developments in a complex initiative such as this one. Furthermore, ANT’s positioning of technology as actor (or “actant”) helps to ensure that the information system itself is properly and fully taken into account. We anticipate that the central contribution of the research will turn on our adapting ANT as a strategy for studying mixed profit/non-profit initiatives in settings characterized by complex and dynamic inter-organizational relationships.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/madeleine_pullman/8/