Sustainability of Vertical Standards Consortia as Communities of Practice: A Multilevel Framework

Kexin Zhao, Sarah S. Khan, and Mu Xia
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 16 Number 1, Fall 2011, pp. 11-40.

Abstract: It is challenging for vertical standards consortia (VSCs) to succeed and thrive, since they need to serve heterogeneous members, their operations depend on members’ voluntary contributions, and the social interactions within them can be complex to manage. Yet there is limited understanding of how such voluntary initiatives can sustain themselves. To fill the gap, we conceptualize VSCs as communities of practice and systematically explore their sustainability through the lens of theories underlying communities of practice and the resource-based model of sustainable social structures. Using the case study approach, we propose a multilevel framework that explains how critical member-level dynamics, consortium characteristics, and industry characteristics affect VSC sustainability.

Key Words and Phrases: Community of practice, resource-based model, standards, sustainability, vertical standards consortia.