Sustaining business networks: Understanding the benefit bundles sought by members of local business associations

Robert Newbery*, Matthew Gorton, Jeremy Phillipson, Jane Atterton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Local business associations can be important mechanisms for stimulating inter-firm cooperation leading to economic growth and development. However, previous research suggests that the unfulfilled expectations of their members can lead to low participation, high membership churn and network instability over time. As a departure from studies that have explored why local associations supply certain benefits and services, this paper draws on an original, demand side membership survey of local business associations to identify for the first time the bundles of benefits sought by members. Two bundles of benefits (instrumental and info-social) relating to thin and thick models of rational choice, respectively, are identified in explaining why firms join and remain part of associations. The relevance of these bundles to members was found to vary with business profile and length of membership, with the value of instrumental benefits reducing over time, whereas the demand for info-social benefits remained relatively stable. The findings have important implications for local strategies for sustaining business networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267-1283
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number7
Early online date8 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


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