In this paper we contribute to the body of work on agency and institutional transmission by proposing two new concepts: distributed agency and dialogue. Distributed agency is a companion concept to that of ‘institutional entrepreneurship’. Whilst institutional entrepreneurship emphasizes the deliberate institution-building by a select few, distributed agency highlights the emergent institution-building that involves any and every organizational member.\ud \ud In turn, dialogue supplements the models of institutional diffusion by drawing attention to the situated interactions between the ‘champions’ and the ‘recipients’ of institutional innovations, to the frictions that accompany institutional transmission, and to the deviations that emerge from those interactions. We use these concepts to analyze the micro-discursive processes during a crucial event in the institutionalization of a new organizational template in a UK public–private partnership.\ud \ud We found that the implementation hinged upon enabling the audience (i.e. the employees expected to apply the template in their work) to act as agents (hence, distributed agency) by engaging in a dialogue that sought to define the audience's identity vis-à-vis coercive pressures, articulate and address its interests, and recognize its rights to modify the template to suit the local circumstances.Peer-reviewedPost-prin
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