Facebook as a tool for supporting dialogic accounting? Evidence from large philanthropic foundations in the United States

Marco Bellucci, Giacomo Manetti
2017 Accounting Auditing & Accountability Journal  
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more » ... and book series volumes, as well as providing an extensive range of online products and additional customer resources and services. Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation. Abstract Purpose -The purpose of this paper is to explore the utilization of the social network, Facebook, as an instrument of stakeholder engagement and dialogic accounting in American charitable foundations, specifically non-profit organizations that are dedicated to philanthropy. Design/methodology/approach -The research motivation involves whether online interaction through Facebook could represent a channel of dialogic accounting that engages organizational stakeholders. This paper aims to understand if this dialogue is geared to generate a consensus necessary to deliberate over decisions that are shared between all stakeholders, or if a divergent and agonistic perspective, which highlights struggles and differences between actors, prevails. The present study employs a form of content analysis that takes into account the Facebook pages of the 100 largest American philanthropic foundations. Findings -The primary goal of the analysis is to examine the discrepancies in terms of how (and how much) large organizations are using Facebook. The study wants to provide more details on which kind of information large organizations are willing to disclose and collect on Facebook, and to evaluate the level and type of interaction between foundations and users. Research limitations/implications -Further research could build on the present study by providing in-depth case studies and extending the analysis to other social media and other types of organizations. Originality/value -Social media represent a powerful mechanism to engage stakeholders in a polylogic conversation. However, the scholarly literature confirms that further studies are necessary to understand how companies and organization can exploit this potential. umbrella term describing different types of applications, such as collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs/micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft), and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life) (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2009; Kaplan and Haenlein, 2012) . Social media applications are particularly well-suited for stakeholder engagement (SE), as the community element embedded within them makes it possible to interact with a large group of people, especially external stakeholders such as local communities, beneficiaries, other non-profit organizations (NPOs), and central and local public administrations. Social media can help organizations conduct SE because it allows one party (the organization) to interact with another (the stakeholder) in a two-way dialogue in which both parties learn from these interactions, thereby deeply revising their expectations and preconceptions (Manetti, 2011; Owen et al., 2001) . SE, in fact, is a powerful tool of dialogic communication Brown, 2009; Brown and Dillard, 2013b) , offering interactive mutual learning processes that are capable of promoting transformative action and social change (Bebbington, Brown and Frame, 2007, p. 357). In light of the crucial role increasingly played by online interaction in conducting SE (Kent et al., 2003; Park and Reber, 2008; Porter, 2001; Rybako and Seltzer, 2010; Unerman and Bennett, 2004) , we will explore the utilization of social mediawith special emphasis on Facebookas an instrument for supporting dialogic accounting in philanthropic foundations and identifying, dialoguing with, and engaging the largest possible number of organization stakeholders Lovejoy et al., 2012) . We study the role played by Facebook in promoting debate (Unerman and Bennett, 2004) on a diverse array of topics (e.g. grant-making policies, program funding, and social responsibility issues) in order to better define the relationship between foundations and their stakeholders. This kind of online debate and interaction can potentially engage stakeholders in a two-way conversation that can produce reliable SE, which is a necessary feature for accounting and reporting relevant information according to the expectations of stakeholders, especially insofar as external forms of non-financial accountability are concerned. A dialogic system extends beyond notions of communication and refers to iterative mutual learning processes that are designed to promote transformative action. According to Brown (2009), dialogic processes inform accountability relationships between stakeholders and organizations . This is why previous studies on accountability systems have focused on enhancing the levels of interaction Brown, 2009) and, most recently, on attempts to create new dialogic accounting practices and technologies that are able to promote SE and interaction at every level Thomson, 2007; Frame and Brown, 2008; Thomson and Bebbington, 2005) . Thomson and Bebbington (2005) claim that SE should address conflicts among stakeholders, recognize diverse viewpoints, and explicitly manage power dynamics. They maintain that monologic accounting should be replaced by an approach that balances the different perspectives and expectations of the community . Recent literature, especially among scholars who have adopted a more critical perspective on these matters, have tried to foster accounting practices that are more receptive to the needs of a "multi-voiced" plural society (Brown and Dillard, 2013a, b), taking into account the diverse array of stakeholder values and interests (Brown, 2009 ). These practices have been included in the umbrella expression "dialogic accounting," which tries to recognize multiple points of views and refuses to privilege capital markets and investors as "priority" stakeholders. Dialogic accounting rejects the idea of a universal narrative, preferring to think of institutions as being exposed to diverse perspectives and interests from its various stakeholders. As a result, accounting is viewed as having the potential to stimulate interaction, rather than as a set of techniques that can maximize value creation and "construct governable others" (Miller and O'Leary, 1987) .
doi:10.1108/aaaj-07-2015-2122 fatcat:gmqgqz6b6rac7piohnau6b6y7i