PDW 01: Opening-up Inclusion, Participation and Democracy in Stakeholder Engagement: Theories and Methods

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Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
Itziar Castelló
University of Surrey Business School, United Kingdom
Anna Stöber
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Call for Applications

, IÉSEG School of Management, France
, University of Mannheim, Germany
, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany
Andreas Georg Scherer, University of Zurich, Switzerland
, University of Bath School of Management, United Kingdom
, IÉSEG School of Management, France

Please note: This PDW will take place on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, from 09:00 to 13:00 CEST!


This cross-theme PDW brings together participants from sub-theme/SWG 02: “New Actors, Responsibilities, and Forms of Organizing in the Age of Digital Transformations”, sub-theme 36: “Justifications and Governance for Responsibly Developing an Inclusive Society”, and sub-theme 47: “Multi-stakeholder Initiatives: Inclusive Dynamics to Address Grand Challenges” in order to channel our energies into the understanding of how to organize an inclusive society. Particularly, the purpose of this PDW is to connect scholars interested in topics relating to the stakeholder engagement dimensions inclusion, participation and democracy. The event also aims to facilitate conversations between more experienced scholars, early career scholars and PhD candidates to discuss paper proposals and project ideas. It will also be an opportunity for young scholars and PhD candidates to discuss submissions for the Special Issue in the journal Business & Society on stakeholder engagement (Call for Papers) guest-edited by the organizers (and others).
In the turn of the 21st century, at a time when the agenda of organizations is being pressured by a devastating pandemic, increasing inequalities, and negating fake-news discourses, the engagement of stakeholders in organizational activities is a growing, omnipresent trend both in contemporary organizations and society at large (Whittington, 2019). As organizational activities become more and more transparent and observable (Albu & Flyverbom, 2019), stakeholder groups such as employees, consumers, complementors, business partners, activists, and citizens increasingly recognize how they are affected by organizational activities and where they are left out. This turns the idea of stakeholder inclusion and stakeholder engagement into an imminent concern for organizations: managers have to engage them in light of desired outcomes such as creativity and innovation (Wohlgemuth et al., 2019), efficiency and efficacy (Scherer & Vögtlin, 2020), value creation (Harrison et al., 2010; Harrison & Wicks, 2013; Parmar et al., 2010), and a social license to operate (e.g., Scherer et al., 2014; Scherer et al., 2015).
The stakeholder engagement process is multidirectional, may take different forms depending on stakeholders’ position relative to the respective organizational activities, and may or may not involve a moral dimension (Greenwood, 2007). Therefore, we argue that stakeholder engagement should be discuss from three perspectives: stakeholder participation, inclusion, and democracy (Matten & Crane, 2005; Quick & Feldman, 2011; Scherer & Palazzo, 2007). “Stakeholder participation” relates to giving voice to stakeholders , e.g., through feedback-seeking, activism, and counter-hegemonic discourses (e.g., Castelló et al., 2016; Mantere & Vaara, 2008; Wohlgemuth et al., 2019). “Stakeholder inclusion” refers to creating a community, e.g., by enabling stakeholders to co-create an organization’s issues and priorities in dialogue (e.g., Dobusch et al., 2019; Fujimoto et al., 2019; Griffin et al., 2019). “Stakeholder democracy” goes even one step further by handing over at least some degree of formal decision-making power to stakeholders, e.g., through direct, consensus, deliberative, or radical democracy (e.g., Crane et al., 2004; Dawkins, 2015; Edinger-Schons et al., 2020; Moriarty, 2014; Scherer & Vögtlin, 2020).
While these forms of stakeholder engagement differ in character, they share that they foster organizational polyphony, i.e., a plurality of voices to which participants of organizational activities are (ought) to devote attention (Castelló et al., 2013; Schoeneborn & Trittin, 2013; Trittin & Schoeneborn, 2017). Such polyphony turns stakeholder engagement into a process that is riddled with tensions, contradictions, and conflicts, one that actors must cope with or work through so as to do justice to stakeholders’ interests (Freeman et al., 2020; Putnam et al., 2016; Wenzel et al., 2019; Zietsma & Winn, 2008).
In the face of an ever-increasing plethora of tools for engaging stakeholders in organizational processes (Castelló et al., 2016; Trittin et al., 2019), the ever-growing importance of stakeholder engagement as a phenomenon in business and society (Whittington, 2019), and the need for engaging especially the powerless voices in business and society (Crane, 2013), we need a better understanding of how stakeholder participation, inclusion, and democracy are performed and with what consequences from a theoretical and methodological perspective. The aim of this PDW is thus to focus in particular on potential theoretical perspectives for studying stakeholder engagement, as well as potential methodological approaches.


Part 1 (90 mins.): Theoretical perspectives on inclusion, participation and democracy
In this session we discuss current theories that may enable scholars to study stakeholder inclusion, participation and democracy. Three senior scholars will briefly present their theoretical perspectives on stakeholder engagement and outline opportunities for theory-building. This conversation will be followed by roundtables with all facilitators to discuss submissions of PDW participants in smaller groups.
Panellists: Andreas Georg Scherer, François Maon, Frank de Bakker
Part 2 (90 mins.): Methods in the analysis of inclusion, participation and democracy
In this session we discuss current methods of studying stakeholder inclusion, participation and democracy. Three senior scholars will briefly present their methodological approach to the study of stakeholder engagement and outline challenges and opportunities. This conversation will be followed by roundtables with all facilitators to discuss the submissions of PDW participants in smaller groups.
Panellists: Sarah Glozer, Matthias Wenzel, Laura Marie Edinger-Schons


Please submit – via the EGOS website – by April 30, 2021 a single document of application (.doc, .docx or .pdf file) that includes the following information:

  • A 1-page summary of a proposed or current project explaining the project and the relation to the PDW theme.

  • Indication of facilitator preference for the theory and the methods roundtables.


Other considerations

We are going to be working across time zones, which makes it challenging to have everyone attend at the same time. Despite the time zone differences, we intend to have as much participation as possible to encourage sharing of thoughts, feelings and experiences of being an academic and an activist. We hope that members will attend as much of the Colloquium as they can.


  • Albu, O.B., & Flyverbom, M. (2019): “Organizational transparency: Conceptualizations, conditions, and consequences.” Business & Society, 58 (2), 268–297.
  • Castelló, I., Etter, M., & Årup Nielsen, F. (2016): “Strategies of legitimacy through social media: The networked strategy.” Journal of Management Studies, 53 (3), 402–432.
  • Castelló, I., Morsing, M., & Schultz, F. (2013): “Communicative dynamics and the polyphony of corporate social responsibility in the network society.” Journal of Business Ethics, 118 (4), 683–694.
  • Crane, A. (2013): “Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation.” Academy of Management Review, 38 (1), 49–69.
  • Crane, A., Matten, D., & Moon, J. (2004): “Stakeholders as citizens? Rethinking rights, participation, and democracy.” Journal of Business Ethics, 53 (1), 107–122.
  • Dawkins, C. (2015): “Agonistic pluralism and stakeholder engagement.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 25 (1), 1–28.
  • Dobusch, L., Dobusch, L., & Müller-Seitz, G. (2019): “Closing for the benefit of openness? The case of Wikimedia’s open strategy process.” Organization Studies, 40 (3), 343–370.
  • Edinger‐Schons, L.M., Lengler‐Graiff, L., Scheidler, S., Mende, G., & Wieseke, J. (2020): “Listen to the voice of the customer – First steps towards stakeholder democracy.” Business Ethics: A European Review, 29 (3), 510–527.
  • Freeman, R.E., Phillips, R., & Sisodia, R. (2020): T”ensions in stakeholder theory.” Business & Society, 59 (2), 213–231.
  • Fujimoto, Y., Azmat, F., & Subramaniam, N. (2019): “Creating community-inclusive organizations: Managerial accountability framework.” Business & Society, 58 (4), 712–748.
  • Greenwood, M. (2007): “Stakeholder engagement: Beyond the myth of corporate responsibility.” Journal of Business Ethics, 74 (4), 315–327.
  • Griffin, J.J., Youm, Y.N., & Vivari, B. (2019): “Stakeholder Engagement Strategies After an Exogenous Shock: How Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds Adapted Differently to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.” Business & Society, Advanced online publication: https://doi.org/10.1177/0007650319870818.
  • Harrison, J.S., Bosse, D.A., & Phillips, R.A. (2010): “Managing for stakeholders, stakeholder utility functions, and competitive advantage.” Strategic Management Journal, 31 (1), 58–74.
  • Harrison, J.S., & Wicks, A.C. (2013): “Stakeholder theory, value, and firm performance.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 23(1), 97–124.
  • Mantere, S., & Vaara, E. (2008): “On the problem of participation in strategy: A critical discursive perspective.” Organization Science, 19 (2), 341–358.
  • Matten, D., & Crane, A. (2005): “What is stakeholder democracy? Perspectives and issues.” Business Ethics: A European Review, 14 (1), 6–13.
  • Moriarty, J. (2014): “The connection between stakeholder theory and stakeholder democracy: An excavation and defense.” Business & Society, 53 (6), 820–852.
  • Parmar, B.L., Freeman, R E., Harrison, J.S., Wicks, A.C., Purnell, L., & De Colle, S. (2010): “Stakeholder theory: The state of the art.” Academy of Management Annals, 4 (1), 403–445.
  • Putnam, L.L., Fairhurst, G.T., & Banghart, S. (2016): “Contradictions, dialectics, and paradoxes in organizations: A constitutive approach.” Academy of Management Annals, 10 (1), 65–171.
  • Quick, K.S., & Feldman, M.S. (2011): “Distinguishing participation and inclusion.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, 31 (3), 272–290.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Palazzo, G. (2007): “Toward a political conception of corporate responsibility: Business and society seen from a Habermasian perspective.” Academy of Management Review, 32 (4), 1096–1120.
  • Scherer, A.G., Palazzo, G., & Matten, D. (2014): “The business firm as a political actor: A new theory of the firm for a globalized world.” Business & Society, 53 (2), 143–156.
  • Scherer, A.G., Palazzo, G., & Trittin, H. (2015): “The changing role of business in global society: Implications for governance, democracy, and the theory of the firm.” In: S. Lundan (ed.): Transnational Corporations and Transnational Governance. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 355–387.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Voegtlin, C. (2020): “Corporate governance for responsible innovation: Approaches to corporate governance and their implications for sustainable development.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 34 (2), 182–208.
  • Schoeneborn, D., & Trittin, H. (2013): “Transcending transmission: Towards a constitutive perspective on CSR communication.”, Corporate Communications 18 (2), 193–211.
  • Trittin, H., Fieseler, C., & Maltseva, K. (2019): “The Serious and the Mundane: Reflections on Gamified CSR Communication.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 28 (2), 141–144.
  • Trittin, H., & Schoeneborn, D. (2017): “Diversity as polyphony: Reconceptualizing diversity management from a communication-centered perspective.” Journal of Business Ethics, 144 (2), 305–322.
  • Wenzel, M., Koch, J., Cornelissen, J.P., Rothmann, W., & Senf, N.N. (2019): “How organizational actors live out paradoxical tensions through power relations: The case of a youth prison.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 155, 55–67.
  • Whittington, R. (2019): Opening Strategy: Professional Strategists and Practice Change, 1960 to today. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wohlgemuth, V., Wenzel, M., Berger, E.S.C., & Eisend, M. (2019): “Dynamic capabilities and employee participation: The role of trust and informal control.” European Management Journal, 37 (6), 760–771
  • Zietsma, C., & Winn, M.I. (2008): “Building chains and directing flows: Strategies and tactics of mutual influence in stakeholder conflicts.” Business & Society, 47 (1), 68–101.
Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich is an Assistant Professor for Business Administration, particularly Business Ethics, at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany. She researches Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), CSR communication and is interested in how responsible management looks like in the digital age. Hannah’s research is published in journals like ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’ or ‘Organization’. She is currently co-editor for a Special Issue on stakeholder participation in ‘Business and Society’ and a Special Issue on “Organizing for Grand Challenges” in ‘Research on the Sociology of Organizations’.
Itziar Castelló is Senior Lecturer at Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, United Kingdom, where she is part of the Center for Digital Economies. Her research looks into the micro-foundations organizations and fields, with a focus on the role of the digital economy in the transformation of business and society relations. Itziar’s research appeared in journals like the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Research Policy’, ‘Business & Society’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, and ‘Corporate Governance’. She is co-editor of a Special Issue for 'Business & Society' on stakeholder engagement.
Anna Stöber is a PhD fellow in the Department of Management, Society and Communication at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, where she is part of the Communication, Organization and Governance cluster. Anna's research focusses on how alternative (in particular less hierarchical) modes of organizing can emerge within established organizations. She is especially interested in the role of employees in advancing these developments.
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