Business Networking in Organisationally thin Regions: a Case Study on Network Brokers, SMEs and Knowledge-Sharing

Birgit Leick, Susanne Gretzinger

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Purpose: Research on business networks in organisationally thin regions, which are characterised by a low density and quality of business networks, is still in its infancy, while the facilitation of business networks receives increasing interest. The present paper combines both perspectives by investigating how different types of network brokers facilitate business networking and knowledge-sharing in organisationally thin regions. Design/methodology/approach: Burt's theory on brokers in social networks is applied to knowledge-sharing in business networks for organisational thinness as context. A qualitative case study represents the empirical basis that describes network brokers from various domains in three different German case regions, which are characterised by organisational thinness. Findings: The network brokers studied facilitate different types of business networks, and they use various levers to increase knowledge-sharing among companies in business networks. Two broker types emerge, private business-driven versus public policy-driven network brokers with distinct approaches to the facilitation of business networking and knowledge-sharing and different limitations due to organisational thinness. Practical implications: Companies, notably SMEs, in contexts characterised by low networking density and quality may benefit from various types of network brokers that foster business networking and instigate knowledge exchange. Public policy should embed activities of private brokers in existing SME assistance programmes to increase the quantity and quality of business networks. Originality/value: Network facilitation in regions with weaknesses in their endowment with industry clusters, business networks and innovative knowledge exchange is under-explored, and this paper contributes to shedding light on this topic with a case study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)839-861
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Brokers
  • business networking
  • knowledge-sharing
  • organizational thinness
  • Business networking
  • Organisational thinness
  • Network brokers
  • SMEs
  • Knowledge-sharing

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