The Three Positions for Interorganizational Interventionist Researcher: Navigating in the Supplier‑Customer Dyad


  • Vesa Tiitola
  • Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen
  • Teemu Laine



interventionist research (IVR), action research, supplier-customer dyad, positions, value co-creation, interorganizational management accounting


The paper identifies and examines different positions of an interventionist researcher, facilitating value co‑creation for new technology in customer‑supplier dyads. The paper answers two research questions: (1) "what kind of positions can an interventionist researcher assume in a supplier‑customer dyad?" and (2) "what should an interventionist researcher consider when choosing a suitable position for her research design?" The paper reflects upon a longitudinal interventionist case study (2017‑2020) focused on facilitating and evaluating the value created by new medicine‑dispensing robot technology in home‑care in Nordic countries. The researchers conducted interventionist research in 11 supplier‑customer dyads, with multiple, evolving positions of the researcher(s). As a result, as a contribution to the existing knowledge about the role of the interventionist researchers, the paper proposes three positions that the interventionist researcher can take in an interorganizational supplier‑customer dyad: an auditor, a lawyer or a mediator. The auditor investigates the interface between the supplier and the customer as an outsider. The lawyer position compromises this perceived neutrality (but not independence) for deeper access to empirical data regarding one of the organisations. Thus, the lawyer actively pursues the status of 'one of us' with either the supplier or the customer. The mediator expands the previous positions by trying to achieve a status of 'one of us' in both organisations trying to understand both sides of the same story supporting both the supplier's and customers' activities. Importantly, as an extension to the existing knowledge, the paper argues that not only can an interventionist researcher move between the etic and emic domains, but she can also move within the supplier‑customer dyad under examination. Thus, when conducting research within the customer‑supplier dyads (and within similarly complex contexts), the interventionist researcher needs to be aware of the existence of different positions and her actual position to the subject of interventionist study. Indeed, the interventionist researcher may choose her role, or the role may be a result of an evolutionary process. The role is 'given' by the people the interventionist researcher interacts with and, thus, not something the researcher can completely decide by herself. However, the interventionist researcher can pursue a specific role that fits her research agenda and design. In any case, the researcher needs to be honest and transparent regarding the actually taken position to avoid potential methodological pitfalls arising from complex, novel research settings.



23 Feb 2021