Institutional Work: Understanding How Actors Create, Maintain and Disrupt Institutions
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (Canada)
University of Nottingham Business School (UK)
Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta (Canada)
University of Erfurt (Germany)
Call for papers
Our aim in this sub-theme is to discuss research and theory that focuses on institutions and institutional change as the practical accomplishment of individual and organizational actors. Building on insights gained from research on institutional entrepreneurship and deinstitutionalization, this sub-theme is intended to facilitate the exploration of 'institutional work' – purposive action of individuals and organizations aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006).
Recently, scholars working in the institutional tradition have begun to devote considerable attention to the interactions between agents and institutions, primarily under the rubric of institutional entrepreneurship. Such research has documented significant examples of institutional entrepreneurship by individuals, organizations and supra-organizational bodies, but has focused relatively narrowly on instances of transformational change led by individuals or small networks of actors. Relatively neglected in this work, however, has been the work of actors to maintain and to disrupt institutions, as well as the role of loosely and tightly connected networks in creating, maintaining, and disrupting institutions. Also largely missing in this research has been the interplay of material and discursive resources in institutional work, the role of politics and identity in institutional work, the roles of resistance, bricolage and improvisation in institutional work, and the relationship between institutional and symbolic work in and around organizations. We intend to stimulate and connect theory and research across all of these issues.
In order to do so, we welcome empirical papers that describe and analyze practices of institutional work, as well as theoretical papers that discuss, extend, elaborate and challenge the notion of institutional work. Specifically, we are interested in papers that explore the processes by which institutions are created, maintained and disrupted. Hence we are interested in papers that explore and challenge:
- Agents actively engaged in the creation, maintenance or disruption of institutions, including the micro processes of such engagements
- Relationships between discursive, material and practical dimensions in institutional works
- Articulation between practices and institutionalized habits within and across organizations
- Types of agency and power relations in institutional work
- Actors' resistance to institutions and attempts to change institutions
- Cognitive, normative and regulative categories of institutional work
We are particularly interested in papers that further develop the concept of institutional work, either conceptually or empirically. Such papers might take stock of and build on what has already been achieved in our understanding of institutional work in other related areas of inquiry, such as boundaries and boundary work, structuralism and post-structuralism, feminism and queer theory, and the pragmatic sociology of Boltanski and Thévenot.
Other such papers might offer new epistemological and methodological approaches to institutional work such as critical realism, rhetorical analysis, semiotics, phenomenological approaches, action research, or network analysis.
Finally, we are interested in papers that apply and extend the construct of institutional work to new and emerging empirical contexts including social entrepreneurship, new technologies, professions and professional work, and new forms of organizing. Comparative analyses of institutional work are especially welcome.
About the convenors
Tom Lawrence is the Weyerhaeuser Professor of Change Management, and the Director of the CMA Centre for Strategic Change and Performance Measurement, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. His research focuses on the dynamics of power, change and institutions in organizations and organizational fields. With Roy and Bernard, Tom co-convened a sub-theme exploring the practices of institutional work at the 2006 EGOS in Bergen.
Bernard Leca is Lecturer in Strategy at the University of Nottingham Business School, UK. His research interests are in institutional entrepreneurship, inter-organizational power relations and critical realism.
Roy Suddaby is Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategic Management and Organizations at the Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta. His research focuses on institutional change in the professions.
Peter Walgenbach is Professor of Organization Theory and Management at the University of Erfurt, Germany. His research interests are in institutional theory, structuration theory, international comparative research and the diffusion and application of popular management concepts.