Sub-theme 10: [SWG] Shaping Desirable Futures – Imagining (Real) Utopias

Juliane Reinecke
University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Ali Aslan Gümüşay
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany
Sylvia Grewatsch
Brock University, Canada

Call for Papers

This sub-theme is part of the the EGOS Standing Working (SWG) 10 on “Organizing Desirable Futures: Sustainable Transformation, Impactful Scholarship & Grand Challenges” which aims to provide a platform for scholars interested in developing impactful and future-oriented organizational theory on societal grand challenges.
The sub-theme will focus on a diversity of theoretical, thematic and methodological approaches to shaping desirable futures (Gümüsay & Reinecke, 2022). In line with the general theme for the EGOS Colloquium 2023 on “Organizing for the Good Life: Between Legacy and Imagination” we encourage submissions that study prefigurative organising for both “real” and imaginary utopias. Real utopias exist on the fault line between “dreams and practice” (Wright, 2010, p. 3). They are utopian because they involve developing visions of future alternatives to predominant institutions, but they are also real because they are rooted in the potentialities of the present.
Submissions may focus on one of several dimensions of this sub-theme. First, they may interrogate how organizations construct the future. There is a growing interest in organization studies in how organizations deal with the future (Hernes & Schultz, 2020; Wenzel et al., 2020), particularly in the context of grand challenges such as climate change or poverty (Augustine et al., 2019; Gümüsay et al., 2022; Slawinski & Bansal, 2015). There has also emerged an important shift in emphasis from organizational capabilities of anticipating and foreseeing future trends to organizational practices of future making (Whyte et al., 2022). Submissions may thus focus on the processes through which organizational actors construct the future in the present.
Second, they may focus on prefigurative forms of organizing that demonstrate, on a small scale what could be possible (Reinecke, 2018), such as spiritual, ecological, and social collectives, communities, and cooperatives that exist on the periphery of the mainstream. They could also examine what would happen if utopian social enclaves scaled up and became widespread reality. For instance, how would an entire circular economy be organized to achieve circularity? Or how could pervasive self-driving cars transform mobility and improve – or worsen – human behavior?
Third, we seek to explore the possibilities of imagination as a research topic. Submissions may focus on the creation and enactment of real utopias, or those that do not yet exist. To do so, scholars can focus on how imagination may be enacted through narratives (Rindova & Martins, 2022), storytelling, stimulation, scenarios or other future-oriented practices. Another central question is thereby also how we would get to realizing imagined utopias. Here, we invite submissions focused on organizing large-scale societal transformation. Thus, we encourage submissions that imagine how radically new forms of “organizing for the good life” could come to be, for instance, a nature-positive economy centred on regeneration and circularity.
Finally, we seek to stimulate methodological and theoretical innovation for the elaboration, critical reflection, and theorizing of desirable futures. To do so, this sub-theme seeks to reflect the possibilities as well as challenges and/or shortcomings of imagination. For instance, the validity of theories based on imagination cannot be tested against the empirical present. But if we cannot wait until something exists (i.e. a nature-positive economy) in order to theorize it, then how can we build valid theories based on disciplined imagination while maintaining scholarly rigor? Hence, we need disciplined imagination not only of what is feasible and probable, but also of what is desirable.


  • Augustine, G., Soderstrom, S., Milner, D., & Weber, K. (2019): “Constructing a Distant Future: Imaginaries in Geoengineering.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (6), 1930–1960.
  • Gümüsay, A.A., & Reinecke, J. (2022): §Researching for Desirable Futures: From Real Utopias to Imagining Alternatives.” Journal of Management Studies, 59 (1), 236–242.
  • Gümüsay, A.A., Marti, E., Trittin-Ulbrich, H., & Wickert, C.(eds.) (2022: Organizing for Societal Grand Challenges. Research in the Sociology of Organizations 79. Bingley: Emerald Publishing.
  • Hernes, T., & Schultz, M. (2020): “Translating the Distant into the Present: How Actors Address Distant Past and Future Events Through Situated Activity.” Organization Theory, 1 (1),
  • Reinecke, J. (2018): “Social Movements and Prefigurative Organizing: Confronting Entrenched Inequalities in Occupy London.” Organization Studies, 39 (9), 1299–1321.
  • Rindova, V.P., & Martins, L.L. (2022): “Futurescapes: Imagination and temporal reorganization in the design of strategic narratives.” Strategic Organization, 20 (1), 200–224.
  • Slawinski, N., & Bansal, P. (2015): “Short on Time: Intertemporal Tensions in Business Sustainability.” Organization Science, 26 (2), 531–549.
  • Wenzel, M., Krämer, H., Koch, J., & Reckwitz, A. (2020): “Future and Organization Studies: On the Rediscovery of a Problematic Temporal Category in Organizations.” Organization Studies, 41 (10), 1441–1455.
  • Whyte, J., Comi, A., & Mosca, L. (2022): “Making futures that matter: Future making, online working and organizing remotely.” Organization Theory, 3 (1),

Juliane Reinecke is Professor of Management Studies at Said Business School, University of Oxford, UK. 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”.
Ali Aslan Gümüşay is Head of Research Group Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Society at Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society Berlin and Professor of Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Sustainability at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), 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”.
Sylvia Grewatsch is an Assistant Professor for Strategy at Brock University, Canada. Her research focuses on how organizations can tackle socio-economic challenges through systems change emerging from social and technological innovations. Sylvia’s research has been published in journals such as “Academy of Management Learning & Education”, “Journal of Business Ethics”, “Journal of Management Studies”, “Long Range Planning”, and “Strategic Organization”.