Relational Foundations of (Coordinator) Brokerage

37 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2015

See all articles by Jason Greenberg

Jason Greenberg

University of Pennsylvania

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: August 22, 2015


There is an ever expanding body of work that considers how, when, and to what extent different forms and types of brokerage matter. However, surprisingly little is known why brokerage roles remain unfilled or how one becomes a broker in the first place. In a 2004 AJS paper Burt highlights half of the “who becomes a broker” equation, arguing that individuals often lack incentives to fill structural holes given the immediate demands on their time and the benefits/costs associated with spanning activities. We think it fruitful to ask a different question that focuses on the other side of the brokerage equation: If brokerage positions offer individuals significant value and a potential basis of power over other actors, why would those other actors cede the brokerage role? We use unique data well suited to determine why actors defer to others the brokerage role. The data are derived from a context where the role of team coordinator-broker is not determined ex ante by hierarchy, i.e., it is an emergent social process. Individuals were exogenously assigned to teams of fixed size without regard for their prior social relationships or observable human capital. We also collected relational data on team members’ dyadic relationships within the team, as well to all other individuals in the organizational context (the whole network) prior to team assignment across three different types of networks, which affords a means of disentangling network content. Having data on ego and alter across three networks also enables the specification of ego and alter-ego fixed-effects. As a consequence of this research design we can be more confident that the relative social factors we study are not spuriously related to deference as coordinator-broker.

Keywords: Brokerage, teams, networks, coordinator

Suggested Citation

Greenberg, Jason and Lazer, David, Relational Foundations of (Coordinator) Brokerage (August 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Jason Greenberg (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Pennsylvania, PA
United States


David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-2796 (Phone)
617-373-5311 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Taubman Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-0102 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)


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