First network meeting: Tackling Grand Challenges

first-dfg-meetingWe had our first network meeting in Hamburg on October 4/5, 2018, to bring together research on grand challenges and new forms of organizing. Our members engaged with questions around ecological, social and governance concerns by discussing papers with topics ranging from self-learning algorithms to sanitation in rural India.

We invited two expert scholars to share their views and research on grand challenges. Johanna Mair, professor at the Hertie School of Governance, spoke about combining and bridging rigor and relevance. She also presented findings on the relationship between innovation and scaling, depicting innovation as an investment and scaling as potentially creating value and impact. Juliane Reinecke, professor at King’s College London, presented work on sustainable collective action – in contrast to ceremonial commitment – in the aftermath of the fatal Rana Plaza building collapse. She described the wickedness of the challenge for practitioners and researchers alike, as “one cannot first understand, then solve” and the “formulation of a wicked problem is the problem” (Rittel & Webber, 1973). Scholars in the field then engage with complexities, capture multiple, contradictory accounts of events from diverse respondents, and have to make sense of them.

At the same time, we also extended the conversation to politics and practice. Bernd Ulrich, deputy chief editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit, gave a dinner speech on central problems of our time: climate change as well as shifting global power dynamics and national consequences. His speech was also a plea for action to defend normality radically and to advocate for a transformative instead of incremental politics. Echoing the notion of grand challenges, he noted that the problem for politics is that challenges are conceived as additive instead of as inter-related. Jürgen Trittin, former German minister and current member of federal parliament, addressed similar concerns around inequality, climate change and bad global governance. He emphasized the interconnectedness between various social challenges and identified climate change as the key threat multiplier for these challenges. His talk ended with a plea for a European response strategy.

We finished our two-day meeting reflecting on how research can have more practical relevance to address these central concerns. We will take this up in our second meeting in March in Amsterdam.

Some impressions were shared via Twitter here. If you are interested in our research and wish to explore potential collaborations, please contact us here.

Sharing Economy, Grand Challenges & Refugees

sharingNew piece on the sharing economy, grand challenges, social movement, platforms, and refugees fresh out at Academy of Management Discoveries. My commentary on the article by Martin Kornberger, Stephan Leixnering, Renate Meyer & Markus Höllerer.

The sharing economy is frequently linked to companies such as Airbnb and Uber that enable “collaborative consumption” (Botsman & Rogers, 2010), that is people make their personal belongings (e.g., vehicles, homes) or services (e.g., workforce) available to virtual strangers through community-based online services (Hamari, Sjöklint, & Ukkonen, 2016; Mair & Reischauer, 2017). Platform companies are not sharing their resources, but share other people’s resources. In these cases, resources that were private like a home or car become goods or services. A novel reservoire of goods and labor is marketized and employed in the capitalist system through digital technologies. Sharing is an increase in the utilized capacity of resources.

However, these types of sharing have a bitter-sweet aftertaste, because they effectively sell – not share – temporarily resources through platform economies without a shared sense of caring. By combining two organizational types, platform and social movement, to a novel form of organzing, the authors potentially present a means to allow the sharing of resources without the surplus value being taken by few companies. Value and values are aligned into a value(s) pursuit (Gümüsay, 2017) and sharing becomes both a transaction and interaction as well as an economic and moral activity.

Hybrid organizing in the face of grand challenges

This CBS BOSarticle appeared on the Copenhagen Business School the Business of Society blog.

Sharing is not always caring

In 2015, thousands of refugees arrived in Europe. A recent paper by Kornberger and colleagues (2017) zooms in on the “Train of Hope”, a civil society organization that organically gained exclusive operational command at Vienna’s main train station during this refugee crisis. The paper is a critical reflection on much of the current sharing economy ‘hype’. In contrast to cases of “collaborative consumption”, where platform companies such as AirBnB or Uber offer (share?) other people’s resources, this is an exemplary case of engagement and sharing without expectations for direct individual return: a sharing of a concern for social well-being. Sharing then becomes caring. …

For the full article please visit the Business of Society blog.

New scientific network “Grand Challenges & New Forms of Organizing”

The German Research Foundation has approveddfg funding for our scientific network. Over the next 3 years the network studies the relationship between societal grand challenges and new forms of organizing.

Grand challenges represent fundamental, global societal challenges of ecological or social nature that require coordinated and collective efforts of multiple actors, including business firms, governments, civil society, and academia. Solving problems like global poverty, climate change or precarious working conditions that emerged as an effect of digitalization and the “sharing economy” are key challenges both for researchers as well as practitioners. At the same time, opportunities arise when considering the role of new technologies and approaches to address grand challenges. They enable the emergence of new forms of temporary, flexible and fluid organizing that may be necessary to discern possible solutions. Yet, academic research that examines the reciprocal relationship between grand challenges and new forms of organization is still nascent.

This network takes an organizational theory perspective on the reciprocal relationship by asking two interdependent research questions. The first question is: What is the relationship between new forms of organizing and grand challenges? Our aim to theorize this relationship is not without complications: On the one hand, examining new forms of organizing in light of grand challenges requires a high degree of theoretical and methodological pluralism in our research. On the other hand, devising practically and managerially relevant solutions requires some degree of consensus among the academic community. The second research question that this network therefore seeks to address is: How can scientific research develop consistent practical implications despite the theoretical and methodological pluralism that pervades organizational research?

Graphical overview:graphical overview

Further information:

Project Duration

June 2018 – May 2021

Funding Agency

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Principal Investigator

Dr. Ali Aslan Gümüsay

Cooperation Partners

Dr. Emilio Marti
Prof. Dr. Hannah Trittin
Dr. Christopher Wickert

Network Members

Dr. Marlen de la Chaux
Prof. Dr. Anja Danner-Schröder
Dr. Katharina Dittrich
Prof. Dr. Leonhard Dobusch
Dr. Sascha Friesike
Prof. Dr. Thomas Gegenhuber
Michael Grothe-Hammer
Dr. Ali Aslan Gümüsay
Dr. Arne Kroeger
Dr. Emilio Marti
Prof. Dr. Dennis Schoeneborn
Prof. Dr. Elke Schüßler
Prof. Dr. Hannah Trittin
Dr. Matthias Wenzel
Dr. Christopher Wickert