Understanding the influence of port community relationships on port community performance – a social capital perspective
Scheuring, Florian Guenter
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This research investigates the influence of port community relationships on port community performance through the lens of social capital. While port performance research has traditionally focused on the micro or macro level, this study explores port performance at the meso level and suggests the terminology of port community performance in acknowledgement of the contributions and relevance the interactions of port community members have on the focal port’s performance. Since this type of investigation is a novel approach within the field of port performance research, this study addresses this gap by employing social capital theory to the context of Scottish trust ports. In detail, this study adopts Nahapiet and Ghoshal’s (1998) conceptualisation of social capital and further incorporates more recent findings of Hartmann and Herb (2015) of social capital’s influence on performance in triadic relationship settings as the latter allows for the suitable conceptualisation of the triadic port community setting between port authority, cargo owners and port service providers. As their performance is influenced by the quality of their relationships and subsequent interactions, the context of Scottish trust ports lends itself to extend social capital theory to develop an understanding of the formers’ influence on the performance of a port. This project employed a multiple-case study design. Two Scottish trust ports were purposively selected in line with a set of established criteria which are shared across the sample of suitable ports for analysis which allows for the synthesis of cases. As part of the data collection, a total of 30 semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 representatives of the three port stakeholder groups of port authority, cargo owners and port service providers. The data gathered by the means of interviews is further enriched by participant observations, informal off the record exchanges and field notes. This project is underpinned by an interpretivist perspective. This study contributes to practice by identifying how facets of social capital such as trust, shared values, or norms in port community relationships positively influence port community performance which is of particular value for smaller sized ports with diverse cargo portfolios. The theoretical contribution of this study is twofold as it highlights how the extended setting of focal relationships in the port community can influence the manifestation of the dark side of social capital. Furthermore, it adds to the body of social capital theory by delineating how existing levels of social capital aligned with one of its dimensions can facilitate the accumulation of facets attributed to the other dimensions.