Sub-theme 30: Crafting Values: How Craft Can Make Life a Little Better

Jo-Ellen Pozner
Santa Clara University, USA
Davide Ravasi
University College London, United Kingdom
Judith Nyfeler
University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Call for Papers

While craft industries are frequently used as interesting research sites, we have yet to fully appreciate how the notion of craft can help us understand relevant alternative approaches to organizing work and production in modern society. Indeed, craft movements that revive traditional making skills in manufacturing do not merely provide a lucrative market niche, but can elicit field-wide transformation by improving social, environmental, and economic conditions. The relevance of the concept extends beyond these often-nostalgic imaginaries of alternative modes of production and could be applied to understand dynamics in any line of work that is subject to mechanical rationalization (Kroezen et al., 2021).
In this sub-theme, we encourage scholars to extend recent research on the role of craft in the pursuit of social and other non-market goals in the 21st century (e.g., Bell et al., 2018; Sasaki, Ravasi, & Micelotta, 2019; Woolley, Pozner, & DeSoucey, 2021). How does craft make life little better by, for instance, making work more meaningful, facilitating sustainable development goals, or maintaining community identity?
The recent resurgence of research on traditional craft sectors (e.g., Cattani et al., 2013; Mathias et al., 2018; Weber et al., 2008), mirrors a growing concern with the role of skillful making and social re-enchantment (Suddaby et al., 2017) in a world of accelerating rationalization, industrialization, and grand challenges. It appears that craft provides an alternative way of organizing work and production that may make life a little better. A recent review (Kroezen et al., 2021) organizes the now extensive literature on craft and defines it as an approach to work that prioritizes human engagement over machine control. When organized as a craft, work and production rely uniquely human skills that involve mastery of techniques and embodied expertise, as well as humanizing attitudes that include dedication, communality and explorative learning. Yet, perhaps the most crucial implication of this growing line of work is that craft facilitates the pursuit of particular social or aesthetic purposes that contrast sharply with the taken-for-granted drive towards growth and efficiency that has come to characterize much of contemporary organizational society.
To advance this growing perspective and fully appreciate the role of craft in modern society, we encourage scholars to interrogate precisely what it is that craft does more extensively. In other words, this sub-theme aims to move beyond the traditionally narrow views of craft as related to primitive, nostalgic and niche forms of manufacturing to focus instead on its broader impact: how can craft help to make the world a better place?
Organizational scholars are well-equipped to contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of craft in society. It is clear that craft already plays an important, if complicated, role in contemporary society: sometimes producing, sometimes impeding innovation or impeding it (Hasse & Nyfeler, 2021); bringing back in “old” forms and tasks of employment, or combining them with and generating new employment opportunities; and increasing connectedness and satisfaction from work (Adamson, 2018, LaMore et al., 2013; Ocejo, 2017). Not only can craft make work more humane and meaningful – perceptually if not always of actually –, we propose that it can also contribute to the amelioration of social, economic, and environmental ills by generating sustainable approaches to both production and organization.
Recent work on bean-to-bar chocolate (Woolley, Pozner, & DeSoucey, 2021), for example, shows how a craft approach to work and production can facilitate the achievement of goals like eliminating the unpalatable externalities of modern rationalized production such as exploitative labor, structural poverty and environmental degradation. It was only through deep human engagement with the chocolate supply chain that craft entrepreneurs were able to expose the misalignment between conventional forms of organizing and desire to work towards resolving social ills. This ultimately generated alternative ventures and organizational structures with the potential to fundamentally transform livelihoods across the supply chains.
Understood in this light, craft appears fundamentally associated with the promotion of both aesthetic and social goals, so that social values are fundamentally embodied in any craft object that is made or enjoyed.
In this way, craft appears to hold promise for the resolution of some of the grand challenges faced by modern society. The goal of this sub-theme is to improve our theoretical understanding of craft through dedicated research and cross-fertilization with a variety of literatures to ultimately advance a conversation on the possible positive impact of craft on the modern world. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • How does craft contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals or triple bottom line objectives? How do craft makers balance aesthetic and social goals with financial ones?

  • What is the value of craft in developed (craft as art and luxury) and developing countries (craft work as an engine of economic growth and sustainability)?

  • How can craft approaches to work and production promote sustainability, inclusion, and ethics?

  • How do the values associated with craft create meaning in the broader world?

  • How do craft approaches to work and production reconfigure conventional roles (e.g., producer vs. consumer) to elicit positive social value?

  • How does craft entrepreneurship differ from other forms of entrepreneurship?

  • How might craft challenge or transform current forms of capitalism and neo-liberal thinking?

  • How has craft revived or reinvented industries of local cultural importance that had been previously (nearly) wiped out?

  • How do craft approaches to work and production generate unique forms of innovation?

  • What is the role of the local community and wider institutions in the sustainability of craft work?

  • How are cultural heritage and legacy related to the realization of contemporary social values in craft work?

We invite theoretical and empirical papers using qualitative or quantitative research methods that address these and related topics.


  • Adamson, G. (2018): The Invention of Craft. London, New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Bell, E., Toraldo, M.L., Taylor, S., & Mangia, G. (2018): “Introduction: understanding contemporary craft work.” In: E. Bell, G. Mangia, S. Taylor, M.L. Toraldo (eds.): The Organization of Craft Work. New York: Routledge, 1–19.
  • Cattani, G., Dunbar, R.L., & Shapira, Z. (2013): “Value creation and knowledge loss: The case of Cremonese stringed instruments.” Organization Science, 24 (3), 813–830.
  • Hasse, R. & Nyfeler, J. (2021): “Making creativity, not innovation. Lessons from the field of fashion.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 75, 249–266.
  • Kroezen, J., Ravasi, D., Sasaki, I., Żebrowska, M., & Suddaby, R. (2021): “Configurations of Craft: Alternative Models for Organizing Work.” Academy of Management Annals, 15 (2), 502–536.
  • LaMore, R., Root-Bernstein, R., Root-Bernstein, M., Schweitzer, J.H., Lawton, J.L., Roraback, E., & Fernandez, L. (2013): “Arts and crafts: Critical to economic innovation.” Economic Development Quarterly, 27 (3), 221–229.
  • Mathias, B.D., Huyghe, A., Frid, C.J., & Galloway, T.L. (2018): “An identity perspective on coopetition in the craft beer industry.” Strategic Management Journal, 39 (12), 3086–3115.
  • Ocejo, R.E. (2017): Masters of Craft. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Sasaki, I., Ravasi, D., & Micelotta, E. (2019): “Family firms as institutions: Cultural reproduction and status maintenance among multi-centenary shinise in Kyoto.” Organization Studies, 40 (6), 793–831.
  • Suddaby, R., Ganzin, M., & Minkus, A. (2017): “Craft, magic and the re-enchantment of the world.” European Management Journal, 35 (3), 285–296.
  • Weber, K., Heinze, K.L., & DeSoucey, M. (2008): “Forage for thought: Mobilizing codes in the movement for grass-fed meat and dairy products.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 53 (3), 529–567.
  • Woolley, J.L., Pozner, J.,E., & DeSoucey, M. (2021): “Raising the Bar: Values-Driven Niche Creation in US Bean-to-Bar Chocolate.” Strategy Science, 7 (1), 1–70.
Jo-Ellen Pozner is an Assistant Professor at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, USA. Her research engages various intersections of market formation and craft movements ranging from organic agriculture to craft beer and bean-to-bar chocolate. Jo-Ellen’s current work explores how the craft space creates opportunities for new forms of organizing and reshapes ideas around diversity and inclusion. She is also interested in social evaluation, corporate governance, and organizational wrongdoing.
Davide Ravasi is Professor at and Director of the School of Management, University College London, UK. His research primarily examines how culture, identity, history and memory affect strategic and organizational changes, or are affected by them. David is am also interested more generally in cultural processes shaping entrepreneurship, design, and innovation. His most recent studies examined socio-cultural dynamics around heritage craft firms.
Judith Nyfeler is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. In her research she primarily focus on sociological questions of how technology, communication, and organization affect the occurrence of the novel, or the putatively novel. Judith’s current project focuses on the resurgence of craft(s) and the relation between industrial and handcraft manufacture methods. More generally, she is interested in creativity and innovation, physical and digital marketplaces, organizational institutionalism, and qualitative and ethnographic research methods.