Sub-theme 32: Generativity through Engaged Scholarship: Connecting Theory, Methods, and Praxis

Giuseppe Delmestri
WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Joel Bothello
Concordia University, Canada
Gabriela Gutierrez-Huerter O
King’s College London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Scholars in organization studies are increasingly uneasy with how our discipline is evolving in universities and business schools (Bothello & Roulet, 2019; Contu, 2019; Harley, 2019; Tourish, 2019). Pursuing a return to meaning (Alvesson et al., 2017), many academics are leaving the comfort of their desks to focus on problem driven research (Gehman et al., 2016; George et al., 2016; Schüssler et al., 2014), engaged and participatory action research (Dover & Lawrence, 2010; van de Ven, 2007;), responsible innovation (Voegtlin & Scherer, 2017) or even activist research (Reedy & King, 2019; Whiteman & Cooper, 2016;). The motivation is not only to develop a knowledge base that is relevant for audiences other than academics and to contribute to the solution of pressing societal and wicked problems, but also to be at the forefront of such changes.
Academic movements such as RRBM (2017), or OS4Future (2019) are focusing both on elaborating solutions to grand challenges and on integrating these very research insights in the practices of academia, i.e. in research, teaching, conference travel and local campus practices. This reorientation is also an attempt to take the lead in defining the buzzword third mission of universities (in addition to the primary missions of research and teaching), and to avoid the narrow conceptualization of research impact that is often the product of particular interests in society (Rhodes et al., 2018).
These developments require us to reassess and develop our skills on several fronts. Specifically, we need to:
Reflect on axiology, i.e. the normative underpinning of our discipline, and the ethical entanglements generated by becoming actors in the contested fields we study (Überbacher & Delmestri, 2019);
Create space for those of us that endorse value commitments such as compassion, courage and justice in addition to personal integrity, curiosity and intellectual rigor (Adler & Hansen, 2012; Svejenova, 2019; Whiteman, 2010);
Draw from existing experiences (Flyvbjerg, 2002; Flyvbjerg et al., 2012; Gray & Purdy, 2018) and develop new methods to conduct engaged scholarship at the level of organizational fields or society, the loci where the solutions to grand societal challenges are negotiated or contrasted and leverage existing methods (e.g., collaborative autoethnographies; Glozer et al., 2018) that enable tracing sustainability processes;
Follow recent examples (Mair et al., 2016; Sharma & Bansal, 2020) in understanding how to combine engaged forms of scholarship (such as action research or activist research) with the capacity to publish in theory driven journals that have an exclusively academic audience;
Enlarge the range of identities that are considered legitimate and desirable in our profession.
We are interested in research that addresses the above themes and in particular is generative of new solutions and not only uses past trends to predict the future but are also dares to imagine and design new futures by being able to consider and “integrate values of different kinds” (Monaci & Magatti, 2017: 376). This kind of research stays true to the phenomenon, addresses empirical puzzles and considers theory as a way to better understand and influence the processes observed (Pawlak et al., 2019). We are also interested in papers in essay format and in papers that directly address methodological issues. Accordingly, the format of the sub-theme will sustain dynamic generativity in our own work at EGOS.
The following are non-exhaustive examples of the kind of question we would like to see addressed in the submitted papers:

  • How can studies be generative for theory and methods targeted at addressing societal issues (rather than just for the sake of theory or methods themselves)?

  • How to package papers in terms of theory and methods to get them published also in theory driven journals?

  • What are the pitfalls in engaged scholarship and how to avoid them?

  • How to conduct participatory action research at field level?

  • How to conduct activist research and avoid its pitfalls?

  • How was a specific societal or environmental challenge resolved in a specific context?

  • What have we learned from the reactions to the COVID-19 crisis and their aftermath

  • How can an autoethnography of a sustainability change process in your own institutions be conducted?

  • What other research methods are useful for conducting engaged scholarship?

  • What factors impede our scientific societies to address more directly the climate crisis and how could these be overcome?



  • Alvesson, M., Gabriel, Y., & Paulsen, R. (2017): Return to Meaning: A Social Science with Something to Say. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bothello, J., & Roulet, T.J. (2019): “The imposter syndrome, or the mis‐representation of self in academic life.” Journal of Management Studies, 56 (4), 854–861.
  • Contu, A. (2019): “Answering the crisis with intellectual activism: Making a difference as business school scholars.” Human Relations, 73 (5), 737–757.
  • Dover, G., & Lawrence, T.B. (2010): “A gap year for institutional theory: Integrating the study of institutional work and participatory action research.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 19 (4), 305–316.
  • Flyvbjerg, B. (2002): Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Flyvbjerg, B., Landman, T., & Schram, S. (2012): Real Social Science. Applied Phronesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gehman, J., Lounsbury, M., & Greenwood, R. (2016): “How institutions matter: From the micro foundations of institutional impacts to the macro consequences of institutional arrangements.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 48A, 1–34.
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
  • Glozer, S., Gutierrez-Huerter O, G., & Zeyen, A. (2018): “Interdisciplinary imagination: Building sustainability bridges through communication.” International Academy for Business and Society (IABS), Working Paper.
  • Gray, B., & Purdy, J. (2018): Collaborating for Our Future: Multistakeholder Partnerships for Solving Complex Problems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Harley, B. (2019): “Confronting the crisis of confidence in management studies: Why senior scholars need to stop setting a bad example.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, 18 (2), 286–297.
  • Mair, J., Wolf, M., & Seelos, C. (2016): “Scaffolding: A process of transforming patterns of inequality in small-scale societies.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 2021–2044.
  • Monaci, M., & Magatti, M. (2017): “Generative dynamics: What sustains the creation of shared business value.” In: L.W. Zacher (ed.): Technology, Society and Sustainability. Selected Concepts, Issues and Cases. Cham: Springer, 373–396.
  • OS4Future (2019): OS4F Action Statement,
  • Pawlak, M., Mica, A., & Hermes, J. (2019): “Normativity in and of institutional work: Making the case for public organizational studies.” EGOS Working Paper.
  • Reedy, P.C., & King, D.R. (2019): “Critical performativity in the field: Methodological principles for activist ethnographers.” Organizational Research Methods, 22 (2), 564–589.
  • Rhodes, C., Wright, C., & Pullen, A. (2018): “Changing the world? The politics of activism and impact in the neoliberal university.” Organization, 25 (1), 139–147.
  • RRBM (2017): “A vision of responsible research in business and management: Striving for useful and credible knowledge.” Position Paper,
  • Schüssler, E., Rüling, C.C., & Wittneben, B.B. (2014): “On melting summits: The limitations of field-configuring events as catalysts of change in transnational climate policy.” Academy of Management Journal, 57 (1), 140–171.
  • Sharma, G., & Bansal, P. (2020): “Cocreating rigorous and relevant knowledge.” Academy of Management Journal, 63 (2), 386–410.
  • Svejenova, S. (2019): “Constructive pluralism for a theory of organization: Rediscovering our community, identity, and vocation.” Organization Studies, 40 (1), 59–63.
  • Tourish, D. (2019): “The triumph of nonsense in management studies.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, 19 (1), 99–109.
  • Van de Ven, A.H. (2007): Engaged Scholarship: A Guide for Organizational and Social Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Voegtlin, C., & Scherer, A.G. (2017): “Responsible innovation and the innovation of responsibility: governing sustainable development in a globalized world.” Journal of Business Ethics, 143 (2), 227–43.
  • Überbacher, F., & Delmestri, G. (2019): “Organizational institutionalism and normativity: How to fix a complicated relationship.” Working Paper.
  • Whiteman, G. (2010): “Management studies that break your heart.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 19 (4), 328–337.
  • Whiteman, G., & Cooper, W.H. (2016): “Decoupling rape.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 2 (2), 115–154.
Giuseppe Delmestri is a Chaired Professor of Change Management and Management Development at WU Vienna, Austria, and co-founder of OS4Future. He studies institutional and categorization change processes, conflict resolution and climate movements. Giuseppe’s work has been published, among others, in the ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Human Relations’.
Joel Bothello is an Assistant Professor in Strategy and Sustainability at the John Molson School of Business of Concordia University, Montréal, Canada, and co-founder of OS4Future. His research is based in organization theory and focuses on how organizations and individuals respond to institutional and market demands, primarily as they relate to sustainability and social responsibility. Joel has published in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Regulation & Governance’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management’, and ‘Theory and Society’.
Gabriela Gutierrez-Huerter O is a Lecturer in International Management at King’s Business School, King’s College London, United Kingdom, and co-founder of OS4Future. Her work is located at the intersection of international business, corporate social responsibility and comparative institutional analysis. Gabriela is currently involved in a research project studying the responses of the UK construction industry to modern slavery. Her work has been published in the ‘Journal of International Business Studies’ and ‘Research in Global Strategic Management’.