Sub-theme 67: Resilient Individuals, Organizations, and Societies: Blenders of Legacy and Imagination

Maria Laura Frigotto
University of Trento, Italy
Mitchell Young
Charles University, Czech Republic
Rómulo Pinheiro
University of Agder, Norway

Call for Papers

There is presently a deep need for establishing meaningfulness in our present, past, and future life following the socio-economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 Pandemic and the radical changes demanded by Societal Development Goals in individuals and social systems. In this context, the profound question on how to combine our legacies with the forward-looking scenario of a good life and sustainable human existence has become paramount. The concept of resilience provides a key to unpacking an answer.
Resilience is typically seen as the property of societal systems, such as organizations and individuals, that enables them to survive despite minor or major disruptions (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 1999; Walker & Salt, 2006; De Bruijne, Boin, & Van Eeten, 2010; Ramanujam & Roberts, 2018). However, it is also the combination of stability and change, relating to “the maintenance of positive adjustment under challenging conditions such that the organization emerges from those conditions strengthened and more resourceful” (Vogus & Sutcliffe, 2007, p. 3418). Through resilience, and its constituent elements of time, adversity and essence, the deep identity and meaning of the system is both preserved and renewed (Frigotto et al., 2022). In fact, triggers shake the status-quo and urge to change either temporally or permanently, in order to, respectively, absorb adversities and restore the status quo, or to adapt or transform into a new, related status quo. Building resilience, actors elaborate on their legacy, derived from their past experience, for making the new that is necessary for the challenges of the present and future (Vogus & Sutcliffe, 2007; Giovannini et al., 2020).
Adversities that can be absorbed are better known and thus can be framed and addressed with available knowledge and competencies, whilst adversities that require transformation are novel under multiple perspectives (Holling, 1973; Folke et al., 2010; Frigotto, 2020). They push the actors towards the edge of ignorance and ask for deep elaborations of cumulated knowledge and previous legacies (March, 1981). Typically, the literature on resilience stresses that survival is at stake, however, so is the oblivion of legacies.
Legacies are inherited from the past as outcomes that derive from concluded actions and experiences, but they are also the ground for “to-be” actions i.e., for potential evolution and change. In this perspective they nurture resilience. Nevertheless, as a social phenomenon resilience is in between legacies and imagination. Grounded in Cicero’s claim that “historia magistra vitae”, no imagination is possible without the knowledge of the present and of the past. The ways in which individuals, organisations and systems are embedded in the future is rooted in the backward-looking view that provides them with functioning solutions, selective attention, and well-tested and satisficing levels of aspiration. This is also responsible for several cognitive biases and distorted perspectives that make the future appear more similar to the past than it actually is.
As such, the resilience of social systems (public and private organisations, networks, institutions, etc.) deploys through the construction of bridges between legacies and imagination:

  • The resilience of territories or regions relies both on resources and competencies deriving from the past and on political developmental programs that, starting from such resources and competencies, can project them into the future (Martin, 2016).

  • The resilience of educational systems combines the tradition of the cultures, values and concepts of good and right with a prospective design of competencies and knowledge that will be necessary in the scenarios of economic and citizenship evolution (Guthrie et al., 2022).

  • The resilience of the cultural heritage builds on the re-presentation and enactment of the past in ways that are relevant today and in the near future (Auclair & Fairclough, 2015).

At the meso and micro levels, a similar pattern can be recognized in the struggle for the resilience of organizations and of individuals:

  • Public and private organizations facing the challenge of sustainability and of the green transition (Campbell, 2021);

  • Family firms trying to pass the experience cumulated by previous generations to successors (Santoro et al., 2021);

  • Individuals facing psychological discomfort especially after Covid-19 quitting their jobs and contributing to the phenomenon of “The Great Resignation” or trying to find new equilibria in their work-life balance (The Economist, 2021);

  • Workers struggling to combine old and new working conditions following Covid-19, such as remote and in presence work (Wang et al., 2021).

In recognizing the role and general dynamics of resilience at different levels (and despite still asking how these levels interact and foster resilience (e.g. Kayes, 2015; Giovannini et al., 2020)), scholars also generally acknowledge the need to work for strengthening the theoretical infrastructure that is currently available to assess and unpack resilience (Kossek & Perrigino, 2016; Linnenluecke, 2017; Fisher et al., 2018; Duchek, 2019). This is achieved both by pursuing the construction of common ground (and a common language) among the many scholars and disciplines that address resilience (Young et al., 2022), but also by progressing in the development of theoretical concepts and empirical tools for specifying resilience from other related concepts, such as change, adaptation or innovation.

For these reasons, following the Colloquium’s call, this panel investigates the mix between legacy and imagination that builds resilient individuals, organizations and societies, and invites theoretical attempts to develop resilience theory, as well as empirical studies, identifying resilience dynamics in our world with a variety (and combination) of methods and perspectives. Within this framework of resilience, we raise the following questions, although others could also be added:

  • How do legacies function as ground for change?

  • Does the balance between legacies and imagination produce different types of resilience i.e. absorptive, adaptive or transformative (Manca et al., 2017; Pinheiro et al., 2022)?

  • Can the combination of legacies and imagination be explored in a longitudinal perspective at the level of foresight, mechanisms and outcomes of resilience (Fisher et al., 2018)?

  • What is the compatibility between past and future that enables a resilient behavior or outcome? Can individuals/organizations/societies act on the future, and structure or shape it as to enhance such compatibility and foster resilience? Is there a dark side of resilience?

  • Who are the primary carriers of legacies and imagination within organizations and/or across organizational fields? And how do they interact? Can this interaction be engineered?

  • How can we best identify and clarify the strategies of so called “agents of resilience” that, like institutional workers (Lawrence et al., 2011), build resilience in their everyday life in organizations? Who plays the role of “agent of resilience” in the broader perspective of social systems? Are there “logics”, “streams” or “movements” of resilience, and if so how can we unpack these?

  • Is it feasible and/or desirable to design legacies for resilience, and if so, how and in what circumstances? As a consequence, is there a “selection” on what is passed through resilience, and if so what mechanisms affect this process?

  • Following emerging modes of governance centered on co-prodution and co-creation, what is the role of citizenship/workers/entrepreneurial generations in both the definition and (re-) assessment of resilience?

  • How can imagination be both linked and freed from legacies?

  • How does knowledge relate to resilience, both the path dependencies and socialization of is legacies as well as the imagination inherent in the exploration into both known and unknown unknowns?



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  • Campbell, J.W. (2021): “Evolution and change in public organizations: efficiency, legitimacy and the resilience of core organizational elements.” In: T.A. Bryer (ed.): Handbook of Theories of Public Administration and Management. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 220–233.
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  • Frigotto, L., Young, M., & Pinheiro, R. (2022): “Resilience in Organizations and Societies: The State of the Art and Three Organizing Principles for Moving Forward.” In: R. Pinheiro, L. Frigotto, & M. Young (eds.): Towards Resilient Organizations and Societies: A Cross-Sectoral and Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 3–40.
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  • Giovannini, E., Benczur, P., Campolongo, F., Cariboni, J., & Manca, A. (2020): Time for Transformative Resilience: The COVID-19 Emergency. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
  • Guthrie, J.A.M., Linnenluecke, M.K., Martin‐Sardesai, A., Shen, Y., & Smith, T. (2022): “On the resilience of Australian public universities: why our institutions may fail unless vice‐chancellors rethink broken commercial business models.” Accounting & Finance, 62 (2), 2203–2235.
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  • Linnenluecke, M.K. (2017): “Resilience in business and management research: A review of influential publications and a research agenda.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 19 (1), 4–30.
  • Manca, B., Benczur, P., & Giovannini, E. (2017): Building a Scientific Narrative Towards a More Resilient EU Society, Part1: A Conceptual Framework. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
  • March, J.G. (1981): “Footnotes to organizational change.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 26, 563–577.
  • Martin, R., Sunley, P., Gardiner, B., & Tyler, P. (2016): “How Regions React to Recessions: Resilience and the Role of Economic Structure.” Regional Studies, 50 (4), 561–585.
  • Pinheiro, R., Frigotto, M.L., & Young, M. (eds.) (2022): Towards Resilient Organizations and Societies: A Cross-Sectoral and Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Ramanujam, R., & Roberts, K.H. (eds.) (2018): Organizing for Reliability: A Guide for Research and Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Santoro, G., Messeni-Petruzzelli, A., & Del Giudice, M. (2021): “Searching for resilience: The impact of employee-level and entrepreneur-level resilience on firm performance in small family firms.” Small Business Economics, 57 (1), 455–471.
  • The Economist (2021): “How to manage the Great Resignation”, November 27, 2021.
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  • Walker, B., & Salt, D. (2006): Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Washington, DC: Island Press.
  • Wang, B., Liu, Y., Qian, J., & Parker, S.K. (2021): “Achieving effective remote working during the COVID‐19 pandemic: A work design perspective.” Applied Psychology, 70 (1), 16–59.
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  • Young, M., Frigotto, M.L., & Pinheiro, R. (2022): “Towards Resilient Organisations and Societies? Reflections on the Multifaceted Nature of Resilience.” In: R. Pinheiro, M.L. Frigotto & M. Young (eds.): Towards Resilient Organizations and Societies: A Cross-Sectoral and Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 307–331.
Maria Laura Frigotto is Associate Professor in Organization Theory and Management at the University of Trento, Italy, where she is a member of the Department of Economics and Management, of the Institute for Safety and Security (ISSTN) of the School of Innovation, and of the PhD Program in Economics and Management. Her research focuses on novelty, especially in its unexpected and emergent form, in relation to resilience and innovation.
Mitchell Young is Assistant Professor of European Studies at Charles University, Czech Republic. His research interests are in public management and the institutional context of research with a particular focus on the effects that policy tools for evaluating and funding research have on the micro-level behavior of researchers and institutions; science as a complex system; and the process European integration in higher education and research.
Rómulo Pinheiro is Professor of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Agder, Norway, where he is also Deputy Head of Department for Political Science and Management. His research interests are placed at the interception of public policy and administration, organizational theory, higher education and regional science and innovation. Current projects include digital transformation in higher education, the effects of Covid-19 in the public sector, organizational resilience, and hybrid governance.