Organization Studies Special Issue on: Organizing for Social and Institutional Change in Response to Disruption,
Division, and Displacement
W.E. Douglas Creed | University of Rhode Island, USA & University of Melbourne, Australia
Barbara Gray | Pennsylvania State University, USA
Charlotte M. Karam | American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Markus A. Höllerer | WU Vienna, Austria & UNSW Sydney, Australia
Trish Reay | University of Alberta, Canada
Deadline for paper submissions: October 31st 2018
The world today is experiencing jarring manifestations of disruption, division, and displacement, ,
making for a troika of societal and institutional upheaval. In its 2018 Report on Global Risks, the
World Economic Forum identified risks stemming from disruptions in five distinct categories:
economical, technological, environmental, geopolitical, and social. In terms of economic risks,
inequality in wealth distribution is increasing across the globe (Anand & Segal, 2015); Oxfam
reports that the richest 1% has accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world’s population
combined (BBC News, 2016). Technological risks threaten privacy and security of individuals,
organizations, and nations. Extreme weather conditions and the failure to mitigate climate change
are among the most pressing environmental risks. Finally, a rise in religious and national
identity conflicts has created geopolitical and social risks resulting in a substantial increase in
global migration and a variety of tensions and fault lines. According to the UN High Commission for
Refugees, there is an estimated 65.3 million forcibly displaced persons in the world, with 21.3
million numbering as refugees. Forces such as populism, nationalism, coupled with increasing
economic inequity, sectarianism, and extreme political polarization look to be undermining the
‘habits of the heart’ that are fundamental to democracy (Putnam, 2000). Some even argue that the
very heart of democracy is in need of healing and we must work for a politics commensurate with
human dignity (Palmer, 2011). Separately and together, patterns of disruption, division, and
displacement will likely rock global society for the foreseeable future – and call for robust
organizational and/or institutional responses.
For this Organization Studies Special Issue, we encourage organizational scholars to address these
and related grand challenges through the development of research that attempts to further
investigate and better understand such disruption, division, and displacement as well as their
consequences from varied perspectives and levels of analysis. We see that organizational scholars
have much to contribute in these domains and we believe that this Special Issue can be a space for
reflection, investigation, and sowing the seeds for future robust action. Although we see strong
potential for research from an institutional perspective, we equally welcome submissions grounded
in many other research traditions. Our key goal in the Special Issue is to bring together
scholarship that sheds new light on organizing for social and institutional change that addresses
these forms of upheaval.
We see significant potential for researchers to build on the growing interest in understanding both
how organizational and institutional paradoxes (Tracey & Creed, 2017) are implicated in such grand
challenges and how organizations of various sorts can respond. Complex or ‘wicked’ problems (Rittel
& Webber, 1973) are likely to require complex solutions involving many different stakeholders (Gray
& Purdy, 2018). A variety of tensions may be involved, such as: democracy versus authoritarianism;
civil discourse versus demagoguery and intolerance; global versus local; nationalism versus
internationalism/globalism; the North versus the ‘Global South’; wealth versus poverty; urban
versus rural; and multiculturalism versus ethnocentrism and/or xenophobia. Research focused on the
organizational and institutional implications of such tensions and how to address them could reveal
In framing this call for papers, we see particular value in Ferraro et al.’s (2015) pragmatist
perspective that outlines ways of responding to grand challenges based on the concept of robust
action. They draw attention to three strategies which we, as scholars, can also apply in building
our knowledge base: creating new participatory architectures that enable prolonged, productive
engagement among diverse stakeholders; promoting and sustaining cooperation and coordination
through activities that sustain multiple voices, diverse interpretations, and interrelated goals;
and experimenting in ways that promote small wins, evolutionary learning, and increased engagement.
We suggest that exploring the organizational and institutional implications of disruption,
division, and displacement may require a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of
entrenched oppression and latent power dynamics (Gray & Kish-Gephardt, 2013; Karam & Jamali, 2015;
Marti & Mair, 2009; Mair et al., 2016; Creed et al., 2010). We encourage scholars to investigate
cases addressing where and how individuals, groups, or organizations have mobilized in attempts to
overcome such deep-rooted problems. Further, we see that addressing the multifarious divisions that
run through these problems requires engaging in emotionally fraught encounters and change processes
that involve mechanisms spanning the micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis (Hochschild, 2016;
Creed & Scully, 2000; Creed et al., 2014; Lok et al., forthcoming). More attention to these
processes and their effects is important and encouraged.
With this call for papers, we hope to foster academic attention to this broad topical area.
Consistent with the mandate of Organization Studies, we aim to promote the understanding of
organizations, organizing, and the organized, and the social relevance of that understanding in
relation to the challenges identified here.
Below we offer our initial thoughts on possible questions and opportunities. However, we stress
that this list is not meant to narrow our collective vision. In the spirit of robust academic
engagement that is participatory and multi-vocal, and that builds on and contributes to engaged
organizational scholarship, we encourage innovative, thoughtful, and provocative submissions from
scholars at all stages of their academic careers.
Opportunities for Theorizing and Praxis
• What mechanisms explain social and institutional change processes in the context of
displacement, disruption, and division?
• What are tools and mechanisms for organizing around these challenges?
• What are the implications of displacement and disruption for institutional stability and
embeddedness, as well as for the persistence of, or change in distinct inequality regimes?
• How can we buttress civil society and civility in the face of such challenges?
• Can conflict be beneficial in promoting voice and resistance to power in this current era of
displacement, disruption, and division – and if so, how?
• What are the multilayered and multi-leveled processes for dealing with resistance and
conflict in the face of grand challenges and wicked problems?
• How can institutions, organizations, and individuals, including scholars, respond more
effectively to refugee issues, disenfranchisement, and economic dislocation?
Levels of Analysis
• What are the bottom-up and top-down processes behind mobilizing for change at and across
different levels of organizing, and how are they shaping organizational, institutional, and
societal responses to these types of upheaval?
• How can the examination of organizing around displacement, disruption, and division assist in
better understanding the microfoundations of institutional change?
• What practices, unfolding at the micro and meso levels, foster civility and contribute to the
healing of polarizing societal rifts?
• In what ways can civil society innovations be facilitated in the face of multiple and
multifaceted global threats?
Global and Local Forms of Organizing
• How do geographical and place-based dynamics affect action and possibilities for change?
• What are examples of novel forms of organizations and organizing around these wicked problems
and what can be learned from them?
• What are the key forces, patterns, and players involved in building local collaborations
against a backdrop of global disruption and global agendas?
• In what ways can local collaborative partnerships be scaled up and replicated?
• What is the role of local organizations (e.g., SMEs, cooperatives, non-profits, public sector
organizations, and civil society) in responding to disruption and displacement? What are innovative
local patterns of organizing for responding to and mitigating the difficulties of disruptive global
shifts (Höllerer et al., 2017)?
Institutional and Collective Identity Building Efforts
• What are the possibilities for cross-sectoral collaboration in the face of power differences?
• What are the possible roles for conflict management and peacemaking?
• How do we cultivate civility, engagement, and listening in the face of the polarization,
hostility, and social demonization that arise as a consequence of displacement, disruption, and
division? How do we reach across the ‘empathy wall’ (Hochschild, 2016), and what are the practical
• What are the identity dynamics (e.g., gender, race, class, religious) involved and what are
the implications for various forms of tensions and responses, ranging from exclusionary backlash to
inclusion? What can be learned through applying an identity lens to (re)analyzing disruption and
• What are the difficulties in working across differences in privilege and power and how can
they be addressed?
• How are ‘deep stories’ and identities implicated in how persons and local populations respond
to disruption, displacement, and division?
To be considered for publication in the Special Issue, papers must be
submitted via the OS website at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/orgstudies by October 31,
2018. There you can also find guidelines for submission and information on the review procedures.
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