SWG 10: Organizing Desirable Futures: Sustainable Transformation, Impactful Scholarship & Grand Challenges


Ali Aslan Gümüsay
Juliane Reinecke
Tima Bansal
Emilio Marti
Amanda Williams

This Standing Working Group (SWG) aims to provide a platform for scholars interested in developing impactful and future-oriented organizational theory on societal grand challenges.

This coincides with calls that abound for organisation scholars to assume a more engaged societal role by breaking away from a narrow, paradigm-driven “theory fetish” and instead, contribute to solving grand challenges and societal problems (Biggart, 2016). Scholars have critiqued that too much organizational research is making trivial additions that are only meaningful to “tiny research micro-tribes” rather than illuminating a social phenomenon in an original, impactful and insightful way (Alvesson, Gabriel, & Paulsen, 2017). Theorizing, in this view, is done “at the expense of producing “socially valuable knowledge contributions” (Alvesson et al., 2017: 27).

However, research with societal impact is also often underpinned by strong and innovative approaches to creating knowledge. Thus, the task is not to de-theorize but to expand our ways of knowing, and thereby offer new methodologies and approaches to theorizing. This SWG seeks to do exactly this: Mobilize the EGOS community to jointly work on expanding and developing our ways of knowing to do impactful research and thereby co-create the future; and to actively feed forward soci(et)al change. Our aim is not to dismiss current methodologies and approaches to theorizing, but recognize their limitations and expand our approach to addressing grand challenges in rigorous and relevant ways.
With the aim to expand our ways of knowing that can co-create desirable futures, we face certain challenges. The future poses one peculiar problem: By definition, it is not here yet. Thus, the quest to contribute to the construction of a future social reality raises some fundamental questions: Do we actually need to wait until something exists before we can theorize it? Or can we ex ante theorize, say, a post-COVID-19 world or think through the consequences of a society radically shaped by artificial intelligence?

To put it differently, the conundrum we face is the following: As an empirical social science, organizational

scholarship deals with the social world as it exists and came to be; our methodological tools are based on data sourced from observable events that have already occurred. Thus, how can we study, conceptualize, and theorize what is not (yet) observable and does not (yet) exist? Could we indeed build valid theories based on, for instance, acts of imagination?

This SWG opens up the conversation about what a new future-oriented research agenda might look like, with the aim to develop new ways of organizing desirable futures. EGOS provides an ideal platform to engage the community of organization scholars collectively, because the implications of re-imagining what impactful theory is, how it can be developed and developing methodological innovations are far reaching.

In this SWG we thus wish to explore the role of researchers and research in thinking about and shaping the future along four lines of inquiry: 1. prefigurative organizing, 2. impactful scholarship, 3. purposeful theorizing, and 4. innovative methodologies. We do so through four sub-themes from 2023 to 2026.
We aim to address topical research areas by bringing together the fragmented and diverse community of scholars studying desirable futures within and across organizations. Specifically, we pursue three main objectives:

  1. We aim to create an international community of scholars that unites various streams of research on desirable futures from different research traditions, studying different concepts.
  2. We seek to stimulate methodological and theoretical innovation for the elaboration, critical reflection, and theorizing of desirable futures.
  3. We aim to foster a research agenda towards impactful scholarship, that is, how we as organization scholars can create societal impact and contribute to the development of desirable futures.


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About the Coordinators

Tima Bansal is a Professor of Strategy at the Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada. Her research targets the interplay between business strategy and sustainability, particularly by investigating how time, space, and scale shape sustainability. Tima has published in journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal.

Ali Aslan Gümüsay is Head of a research group at the Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society Berlin, and Senior Researcher at the University of Hamburg, Germany. His work in organization theory, entrepreneurship, business ethics, and leadership has been published in outlets such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Perspectives, Business & Society, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Theory, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, and Research Policy.

Emilio Marti is an Assistant Professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. His research interests include corporate social responsibility, institutional theory, performativity, and socially responsible investing. Emilio’s work has been published in the Academy of Management Review and the Journal of Management Studies.

Juliane Reinecke is Professor of Management Studies at Said Business School, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on mechanisms for achieving sustainable futures in organizations and in global value chains, such as through transnational multi-stakeholder governance, collective action, and social movements. Juliane serves as Associate Editor of the Academy of Management Journal.

Amanda Williams is a Research Fellow at IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her research lies at the intersection of sustainability management and social-ecological systems. She studies how organizations understand global sustainability issues and develop corporate sustainability strategies that align with global targets. Amanda’s work has been published in journals such as Academy of Management Discoveries, Business & Society, and Strategic Organization.