Corporate Citizenship and Local-Global Alliances: A Case From Ciudad Juarez

Project: Research project

Project Details







Melissa Wright

Pennsylvania State University

Economic globalization proceeds through a dynamic co-ordination between global economic activities and the localized, non-market relationships found in civil society. Nevertheless, even as more scholars emphasize the significance of local civic institutions for global economic processes, the dominant views articulated in globalization studies recreate the bias that global entities are immune to the influence of local institutions. This bias is particularly found in the literature on multinational firms, which frequently are portrayed as globalization's principal agents, operating beyond the influence of local practices. As a result, such studies fail to consider how local organizations affect multinational corporations and their impact around the world. This research project will investigate how multinational firms and local non-profit organizations establish common ground for action through the creation of joint civic projects. These projects fall under the rubric of 'corporate citizenship', which is a concept increasingly employed by corporations to describe their funding for and reliance upon local civic institutions to meet their human resource and technology needs. Despite the proliferation of references to 'corporate citizenship' in the business press, this concept remains understudied and its meaning for the local civic domain is virtually unexplored. The research will be carried out in a two-year case study in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico). Three sets of questions guide the research: 1) How do corporate requirements for human resources and technological development contribute to the exercise of corporate citizenship in Ciudad Juarez? 2) How do local interpretations of gender and nationality mediate the formation of the corporate-civic alliances that constitute the practice of corporate citizenship? 3) How do these alliances affect the institutional practices and objectives of their participating organizations? Ciudad Juarez has been chosen as the study are for several reasons. It is the birthplace of the maquiladora industry (the export-processing factories in Mexico) and is representative of many Third World industrial enclaves where multinational firms seek to upgrade the labor force and social infrastructure through civic activity. The city's export-processing maquiladora industry has increased its civic participation with educational and community-based organizations over the last five years. This increased corporate activity in the Ciudad Juarez civic sector mirrors a global trend in the expansion of multinational corporate citizenship across Third World regions.

The project will investigate not only what decision-makers in the corporate and civic sectors are doing, but also how their motives change through interaction with other organizations and how such changes affect the behavior of their institutions. The research methods, therefore, are qualitative and involve both open-ended interviews and participant observation. The qualitative techniques will be combined with archival research to put the fieldwork data into a larger theoretical and empirical context. These methods will investigate how leaders in corporate and non-profit organizations make they decisions they do, how they implement and modify them and how their stated intentions sometimes diverge from their actions. While qualitative methods do not lend themselves to formal hypothesis testing, they will amplify and enrich the results derived from quantitative investigations that link corporate behavior with civic action. Further, they will provide valuable insight into processes touched upon but not investigated by quantitative studies of the maquiladora industry and its impact on the regional development of Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Effective start/end date9/1/028/31/04


  • National Science Foundation: $110,000.00


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