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How knowledge brokers emerge and evolve: The role of actors’ behaviour


  • Boari, Cristina
  • Riboldazzi, Federico


This article investigates how actors positioned in a network can evolve as knowledge brokers, as well as how they act to develop new brokerage roles. Our focus is on actor's behaviour while previous studies concentrate more on the structural and positional determinants of brokerage roles. This research combines brokerage roles with a broker's functions in an exploratory study of a small Italian comics publishing house. Over 20 years, the firm played different brokerage roles involving different actors at national and international levels. We find that if all brokerage roles involve transcoding functions, the ability to overcome transcoding obstacles, through the use of shared imprinting with receiving partners, could be useful for developing any brokerage role. Moreover, heterogeneity in the competences and industry experience of hired members of the management team could support the development of new brokerage roles, with differentiated effects on various brokers’ functions. If a brokerage role involves new actors with no previous allegiance, the status of the broker, signalled through network relations, can have significant impacts by indirectly communicating its superior knowledge. The proposed, emerging theoretical framework has direct implications for studies of knowledge brokers and innovation in social networks, as well as for entrepreneurship research.

Suggested Citation

  • Boari, Cristina & Riboldazzi, Federico, 2014. "How knowledge brokers emerge and evolve: The role of actors’ behaviour," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 683-695.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:43:y:2014:i:4:p:683-695 DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2014.01.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:1:p:70-87 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ankita Tandon & Unnikrishnan K. Nair, 2015. "Enactment of knowledge brokering: Agents, roles, processes and the impact of immersion," Working papers 183, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode.
    3. Francesco Izzo & Barbara Masiello, 2015. "Strategie di innovazione nelle imprese creative di servizi," ECONOMIA E DIRITTO DEL TERZIARIO, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2015(1), pages 63-104.
    4. José-Antonio Belso-Martínez & Manuel Expósito-Langa, 2015. "Persistence and extinction of brokerage roles in clusters: the role of status, former experiences and extra-cluster relationships," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1501, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jan 2015.
    5. Huasheng Zhu & Kelly Wanjing Chen & Juncheng Dai, 2016. "Beyond Apprenticeship: Knowledge Brokers and Sustainability of Apprentice-Based Clusters," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(12), pages 1-17, December.
    6. José Antonio Belso-Martínez & Manuel Expósito-Langa & Francisco Mas-Verdú & F. Xavier Molina-Morales, 2017. "Dynamics of Brokerage Positions in Clusters: Evidence from the Spanish Foodstuffs Industry," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(2), pages 1-18, February.


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