Organizing for an Inclusive Society:
Meanings, Motivations, and Mechanisms
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)
July 8–10, 2021
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
July 8–10, 2021
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A society is considered to be inclusive when all its members have access to relevant information and resources and, at the same time, demonstrate a willingness and capacity to develop rich and meaningful lives for themselves, and for others. In its pursuit of ideals such as equality and respect for diversity, inclusivity lies at the core of contemporary visions on modern democratic societies. Yet, we do not need reminding that inclusion is inextricably linked with exclusion and therefore may demand that we address difficult questions, trade-offs, and conundrums. Inclusivity depends on an ongoing effort to create and maintain organizations, institutions, and environments, as well as practices and languages, in which and through which these ideals find their expression, but which can also be contested. The ambition of a society that enables and fosters participation – one in which no one is left behind – may, paradoxically, never be fully accomplished.
Some recent developments threaten inclusivity around the globe. In various societies, for instance, identity politics, fuelled
by exclusive political allegiances and populist responses to migration and other issues, undermine inclusivity by stereotyping,
polarization, and a resulting loss of solidarity. The widespread erosion of trust in institutions, public and private alike,
further exacerbates the threat to inclusivity. A lack of inclusivity in society particularly manifests itself in organizations
across multiple, often interconnected dimensions of diversity. This happens, for instance, through inequalities in wage levels
and career prospects between categories such as ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ employees, men and women, full-time employees and
‘hired hands’, ‘white’ and ‘coloured’ people, and through disrespect for personhood such as in various forms of harassment
and bullying. Inclusivity is inherently an organizational issue and calls to be examined through an organization studies lens;
it questions the design of traditional forms of organizing and organizational practices, and may demand the creation of novel,
The complex nature of today’s social challenges suggests that there may not be one best way to organize for inclusivity. For example, in certain circumstances, inclusivity may become a convenient framing to avoid discussing burning or controversial issues, such as equality or democracy. The value of inclusivity can be questioned if, in its very name, differences are pushed to the background and suppressed as irrelevant, thereby confirming the dominance of the ‘normal’ in social, cultural, political or economic terms. Despite many notable efforts, organizing for an inclusive society inevitably goes hand in hand with the bright and dark sides of organizing.
In 2021, EGOS will be located in a city with an extensive history of organizing for inclusivity. Amsterdam, the city, and its citizens have for a long time found creative and sometimes almost subversive ways of organizing their livelihoods and interactions with different social groups in a limited space and under continuous external pressures. Shaking up old ways of thinking and living together, as well as creating new forms of collaboration, communication, compromise, and exchange, have always been central to this city’s organizing – in both its bright and dark manifestations.
The long history of migration to Amsterdam serves as an example of the entanglement of positive and negative sides of organizing. The steady stream of migrants – whether from the nearby countryside or from far away locales – seeking work, inspiration, and protection among like-minded people has led to excellence in many fields and domains ranging from economics to the fine arts, but also to exploitation, dominance, and abuse of power. Therefore, in striving for inclusivity, people struggle with its dark side. This struggle manifests itself in an ongoing search for answers to the question of what it means to be a citizen of the city; a continuing debate about motivations to live and work here; and a ceaseless quest to discover and maintain organizational mechanisms that foster inclusivity.
As the host of the 37th EGOS Colloquium in 2021, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) shares the city’s history of finding unconventional ways to deal
with setbacks and adversity. Founded in 1880 as a privately financed counter-movement to the ruling of the clergy and the
government, it organized itself to stay independent and free (vrij) from external influence – free from the church, the state, and commercial interests. VU embodies the will to organize for
an inclusive society, yet does not hesitate to acknowledge the complexity of such organizing.
At present, VU is an open organization, strongly linked to people and society, and known for its distinctive approach to knowledge. What matters is not merely the development of knowledge to ever-greater depths and levels of detail; its focus lies strongly on the development of a knowledge base that is relevant – and in such a way inclusive – for a wide range of audiences. VU asks and expects its members ‘to look further’ – beyond their own interests and discipline, beyond the familiar, and beyond the here and now.
In line with the EGOS spirit, the 2021 EGOS Colloquium invites scholars not only to revisit established organizational forms and practices but also to imagine novel ones, addressing the meanings, motivations, and mechanisms of organizing for inclusivity. It invites organizational scholars to ask the following and other related questions across and crossing levels of analysis:
How do different motivations inform meanings and mechanisms of organizing for inclusivity?
Who is, becomes, or remains included and excluded, and why?
What is the relationship between inclusion and exclusion? How does inclusion relate to concepts such as community, freedom, self, difference, indifference, and the Other?
What are factors and mechanisms behind inclusion and exclusion of humans (and non-human beings)?
When, where, why, how can there be too much inclusivity?
What are organizational and institutional structures, practices, and processes that advance inclusivity?
What can and should organizations do to become more inclusive?
How may inclusivity stand against other values such as equality, diversity, fairness, and justice?
The quest to address such questions is fundamentally an organizational challenge, which we should all embrace. We hope that the perspective on organizing, seeing, and studying the bright and the dark sides of inclusivity will inspire our scholarship to make the wider society as well as our own research community a more liveable place.
We invite EGOSians to our vibrant city of change, reflection, and invention – also to learn from the past in order to shape the future.
Submissions of sub-theme proposals are expected to include an outline of the proposed sub-theme and the area of interest (maximum of 2 pages), as well as a
short description of the team of convenors, including their academic background and experience. Submissions should be linked
with the overall Colloquium theme, but other submissions are also welcome. The sub-theme proposals should avoid repetition
of the overall Colloquium theme in their titles.
Convenor teams should be international in composition (convenors from at least two countries), reflecting the diversity of EGOS, and should include at least one highly reputed scholar and one convenor with experience in organizing and running EGOS sub-themes. The maximum convenor team size is three scholars. Proposals from teams of four or more convenors will not be considered.
For further information, please see the “Guidelines and criteria for online submission of SUB-THEME PROPOSALS for EGOS Colloquia” ---> Click here
Period for submission of sub-theme proposals [online via the EGOS website]:
Start: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
End: Monday, November 25, 2019, 23:59:59 CET
For any questions re. the 37th EGOS Colloquium 2021, please contact