Sub-theme 12: [SWG] Institutions, Innovation, and Impact: Dynamics of Exclusion and Organizational Responses

Ebony N. Bridwell-Mitchell
Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA
Farah Kodeih
IESEG School of Management, France
Thomas B. Lawrence
Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

This sub-theme explores how institutions and organizations perpetuate or counter exclusion, intentionally and unintentionally. Across the world, citizens are increasingly looking for organizations – private, non-profit, public and governmental – to address racism, gender inequality, displacement, and chronic poverty. Within organization studies, institutional research has significant potential to shed light on these challenges and organizational interventions that create positive impact (Lawrence et al., 2014; Farny et al., 2019).
Social exclusion refers to restrictions that limit the access of individuals and social groups to resources and opportunities based on their ethnicity, race, religious beliefs, gender, sexuality, class, or other characteristics (Massey & Denton, 1993; Lamont & Molnár, 2002). Exclusion is embedded in institutionalized structures, including systems of law, regulations, norms, beliefs, and reoccurring practices, that are often sanctioned by the state and other powerful authorities (Amis et al., 2017; Claus & Tracey, 2019). Today, in developing countries, women face exclusionary norms and practices that bar them from participating in mainstream social and economic exchanges (Mair et al., 2016). In many developed countries, communities of color suffer from systemic racism and police brutality. Throughout the world, refugees and asylum seekers are pushed into the margins of society and denied basic rights.
The roles that institutions and organizations play in creating, maintaining, and potentially transforming systems of exclusion have become important areas of organizational scholarship (Amis et al., 2017; Lawrence & Dover, 2015; George et al., 2016). Diverse efforts to address exclusion include, transforming or renegotiating norms to help integrate the marginalized within the mainstream (Mair et al., 2016); fostering social and inclusive innovation (George et al., 2019); mobilizing resources and support for the displaced (Kornberger et al., 2018), and more situated “band-aid solutions” to tackle the immediate symptoms of exclusion (Lawrence et al., 2014).
We invite theoretical and empirical papers that explore the role of institutions and organizations in exacerbating and mitigating exclusion. This includes but is not limited to papers in six broad categories:

  • Micro- and meso-level dynamics of exclusion. Formal organizational practices and structures as well as informal micro- and meso-level dynamics can reinforce or undermine systems of exclusion. Such dynamics include the impact of societal institutions on organization members’ cognitive biases (Ziegert & Hanges, 2005), their preferences for interacting in homophilous social networks (Smith, 2005), and the de facto dominance of particular cultural forms (Ray, 2019). We invite research on these dynamics and how organizations create conditions to challenge them.

  • Macro-level and historical patterns connecting organizations and institutions to exclusion. Exclusion in organizations arises from enabling conditions in macro-level environments, such as laws and policies – or the lack thereof – that marginalize a disenfranchise specific groups. Exclusion in organizations also can reflect the imprinting of historical patterns of oppression, such as colonialism, slavery, and genocide. We call for research on the role of organizations in enacting regulatory conditions and historical path dependencies promulgating or preventing exclusion, such as the role of local real-estate agents and mortgage lenders in discriminatory housing policies (Aalbers, 2005), and the historical role of the insurance and advertising industries in institutionalizing U.S. slavery (Murphy, 2005; Schafer, 1981).

  • Exclusion in different organizational and institutional settings. Specific settings – from business, to law, healthcare, and education – differ in their patterns of exclusion. We call for research on how those differences play out across organizations and institutions. Such research might reveal how fundamental logics undergirding exclusionary practices but manifest differently across sectors. Alternatively, research might examine how the translation of logics across sectors, such as the rise of market logics in education, may result in erosion of democratic values or the marginalization of traditionally dominant groups (Trujillo & Renee, 2015). Research might also examine how regulatory practices or professional norms across sectors promote, prevent or mask exclusionary practices, such as deprivation narratives masking low student expectations in underperforming U.S. public schools (Bridwell-Mitchell, 2020).

  • The role of material objects and practices in fostering and overcoming exclusion. Exclusion is a social phenomenon, but it is often rooted in material objects and practices that afford differential opportunities and constraints to specific groups of actors, as evidenced recently by the “digital divide” (Watts, 2020). At the same time, digital tools can be used to widen educational participation and provide access to traditionally excluded social groups. In many countries, “tech for good” start-ups and community groups have used digital solutions and platforms to support vulnerable communities. Thus, we seek to understand the role of innovation and technology in exacerbating and overcoming social exclusion.

  • Organizational and institutional responses to exclusion. We call for research on the diverse innovations and strategies through which organizations respond to exclusion. These include advocacy and overt contestation of prevailing societal norms and institutions (Schneiberg & Lounsbury, 2017), more subtle strategies – such as covert activism (Claus & Tracey, 2019; Mair et al., 2016), and local efforts to support excluded people through emergent social innovation activities (George et al., 2019). Research could examine, for example, how organizational strategies vary across systems of exclusion and how much these systems are open to renegotiation. We are also interested in how organizations navigate the institutional forces they face when siding with marginalized social groups.

  • Impact of efforts to address exclusion. Finally, we are interested in the outcomes of diverse efforts to address exclusion. How and when do organizations reshape the institutional foundations of exclusion and with what results? Can organizations help individuals and communities not only access resources and services, but also build resilience, regain dignity, and foster positive self-conceptions? What might be the unintended harmful consequences of addressing exclusion (e.g., Khan et al., 2007), and when does the desire to help inadvertently create expectations that organizations cannot fulfill?


  • Aalbers, M. B. (2005): “Place‐based social exclusion: Redlining in the Netherlands.” Area, 37 (1), 100–109.
  • Amis, J.M., Munir, K.A., & Mair, J. (2017): “Institutions and economic inequality.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence & R. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 705–736.
  • Bridwell-Mitchell, E.N. (2020): “Between What Is and What Is Possible: Theorizing the Role of Institutional Interstitially in State-Led School Turnaround.” Peabody Journal of Education, 95 (4), 423–438.
  • Claus, L., & Tracey, P. (2019): “Making change from behind a mask: how organizations challenge guarded institutions by sparking grassroots activism.” Academy of Management Journal, 63 (4), 965–996.
  • Farny, S., Kibler, E., & Down, S. (2019): “Collective emotions in institutional creation work.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (3), 765–799.
  • George, G., Baker, T., Tracey, P., & Joshi, H. (2019): “Inclusion and innovation: A call to action.” In G. George, T. Baker, P. Tracey & H. Joshi (eds.): Handbook of Inclusive Innovation: The Role of Organizations, Markets, and Communities in Social Innovation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2–22.
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
  • Khan, F.R., Munir, K.A., & Willmott, H. (2007): “A dark side of institutional entrepreneurship: Soccer balls, child labour and postcolonial impoverishment.” Organization Studies, 28 (7), 1055–1077.
  • Kornberger, M., Leixnering, S., Meyer, R.E., & Höllerer, M.A. (2018): “Rethinking the sharing economy: The nature and organization of sharing in the 2015 refugee crisis.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 4 (3), 314–335.
  • Lamont, M., & Molnár, V. (2002): “The study of boundaries in the social sciences.” Annual Review of Sociology, 28 (1), 167–195.
  • Lawrence, T.B., & Dover, G. (2015): “Place and institutional work: Creating housing for the hard-to-house.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 60, 371–410.
  • Lawrence, T.B., Dover, G., & Gallagher, B. (2014): “Managing Social Innovation.” In: M. Dodgson, D.M. Gann & N. Phillips (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Innovation Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 316–334.
  • Mair, J., Wolf, M., & Seelos, C. (2016): “Scaffolding: A Process of Transforming Patterns of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies.” Academy of Management Journal, 59, 2021–2044.
  • Massey, D.S., & Denton, N.A. (1993): American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Murphy, S.A. (2005): “Securing human property: Slavery, life insurance, and industrialization in the upper south.” Journal of the Early Republic, 25 (4), 615–652.
  • Ray, V. (2019): “A theory of racialized organizations.” American Sociological Review, 84 (1), 26–53.
  • Schafer, J.K. (1981): “New Orleans slavery in 1850 as seen in advertisements.” The Journal of Southern History, 47 (1), 33–56.
  • Schneiberg, M., & Lounsbury, M. (2017): “Social Movements and the Dynamics of Institutions and Organizations.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T. Lawrence & R. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, chapter 11.
  • Smith, S.S. (2005): “’Don’t put my name on it’: Social capital activation and job-finding assistance among the black urban poor.” American Journal of Sociology, 111 (1), 1–57.
  • Trujillo, T., & Renee, M. (2015): “Irrational Exuberance for Market-based Reform: How Federal Turnaround Policies Thwart Democratic Schooling.” Teachers College Record, 117 (6), 1–34.
  • Watts, G. (2020): “COVID-19 and the digital divide in the UK.” The Lancet Digital Health, 2 (8), e395–e396.
  • Ziegert, J.C., & Hanges, P.J. (2005): “Employment discrimination: the role of implicit attitudes, motivation, and a climate for racial bias.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 90 (3), 553.
Ebony N. Bridwell-Mitchell is an Associate Professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA. Her research builds on this multidisciplinary training to examine factors constraining and enabling change in public institutions, such as schools. This includes research spanning levels of analysis to examine institutional processes in moments of intersubjective dissonance, within professional communities, and across interorganizational networks. With work funded by the National Science Foundation and published in journals such as ‘Organizations Science’, ‘Organization Studies’ and ‘Sociology of Education’, Ebony works to extend the impact of her research by partnering with leading-edge organizations to support access, equity and agency in public school reform.
Farah Kodeih is Associate Professor of Strategy at IESEG School of Management, France, and Visiting Professor at Aalto University School of Business, Finland. Her research focuses broadly on how organizations and individuals experience and respond to institutional pressures, contradictions and disruptions. The current focus of her research is to document the ways in which organizations have mobilized to respond to the recent refugee crisis and counter the marginalization and exclusion faced by refugees and asylum seekers in their new host countries. Farah’s research has been published in the ‘Academy of Management Annals’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Research in the Sociology of Organizations’, among others.
Thomas B. Lawrence is a Professor of Strategy in the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. His research focuses on the dynamics of power, change and institutions in organizations and organizational fields. It has appeared in such journals as ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization’, and ‘Organization Studies’.