WORKSHOP: Collective Action in Crisis?

Organized by Ignasi Marti, Martin Kornberger, Joep Cornelissen, Corinna Frey-Heger, Marian Gatzweiler& Renate Meyer

Date: May 16 & 17 2019 

Time: Thursday 16 12noon – Friday 17 3pm

Location:Institute of Social Innovation, ESADE, Barcelona 

Context:The problem of the organization and governance of collective action surfaces as particularly apparent in crisis situations such as in war zones or the management of large-scale humanitarian emergencies. Such contexts often evade clear-cut classification and present challenges in terms of polycentric governance, distributed decision-making and collective sensemaking for the actors involved. The instability of these settings, and the pressing need for collaboration amongst actors that do not necessarily share a common history, tradition or identity make the organization and governance of collective action particularly challenging.  

Aim: With this workshop we want to investigate how collective action across a network of diverse actors is accomplished in such situations of crisis. Our focal question is: how can a collective of actors organize their capacity to act and make decisions in situations of crisis? 

Conceptual orientation:The project explores collective action as form of collaboration and coordination beyond the well-worn modes of the state, market and hierarchy. With the concept of collective action we zoom in on how heterogeneous networks of actors that transcend organizational and institutional boundaries address crisis situations. Key questions include how the collective develops a sense of purpose and identity, a shared strategic direction, and sustains coherence in action. We seek to explore the institutional, organizational and strategic forces that enable and/or constrain effective collective action and its governance. 

With crisis we delimit the empirical setting that we are interested in. We are inspired by the original meaning of the Greek word ‘crisis’ – which derives from krínein– meaning to decide and to incise: the crisis is the moment of decision, a radical interruption of temporality resulting in a loss of orientation that forces a decision which divides the flow of events into a before and after. In this sense, crisis situations are not only low-probability, high-impact events such as disasters, fires, or earthquakes; with the focus on crisis as decision-making under extreme contingency we also include empirical contexts addressing organizing under high uncertainty, in extreme contexts, or grand challenges.   

Possible questions we want to pursue include:

  • Management practices: what are the routines, practices, technologies, plans, etc. through which crisis situation are managed? 
  • Decision-making: How does decision-making within a network of actors sustain collective action during situations of crisis?
  • Polycentricity: How is coordination made possible under conditions of polycentric governance? 
  • Sensemaking: How do interfaces and technologies harness cognition distributed across networks? 
  • Performance: How is performance across the network evaluated, given that different actors might have different evaluative practices and principles? 
  • Power: How are conflicts (between actors etc.) resolved? What are consequences (intended and unintended) of collective action? 

The event: The workshop aims to provide a space for conceptual and empirical contributions as well as reflections on methods. The workshop is developmental and welcomes papers as well as work in progress. 

We have planned a follow up workshop in Rotterdam in autumn 2019 to continue the conversation and, based on progress in Barcelona, work collectively towards a joint publication (such as a special issue or edited volume). Participation in both workshops is desirable but not mandatory. 

Organizers: The workshop is a joint venture between 

  • Corinna Frey-Heger, Assistant Professor Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University  
  • Ignasi Marti, Professor Institute of Social Innovation, ESADE, Barcelona
  • Joep Cornelissen,Professor Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University  
  • Marian Gatzweiler, Early Career Fellow University of Edinburgh Business School 
  • Martin Kornberger, Professor EM Lyon, Visiting professor WU Wien and University of Edinburgh Business School 
  • Renate Meyer, Professor WU Wien and CBS

For more information please contact Martin Kornberger kornberger@em-lyon.comor Ignasi Marti



12-1pm                                Welcome & introduction Ignasi Marti & Martin Kornberger   

1-2pm                                  Marc Ventresca Organizing collective capacity in crisis:  Analytic imageries from                                                                          commons governance and action fields

2.15-3.15pm    Arjen Boin, Collective action in the face of crisis: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

3.30-4.30pm    Daniel Geiger, Crafting Space: The Role of Spatial Practices in Managing Refugee                                                                       Camps

4.30-5.30pm    Open discussion: developing a research agenda

                                           Drinks provided   


9-10am                                 Madeleine Rauch, Emotions, Framing, and Grand Challenges: How do individuals cope                                                             with emotional stress when working in extreme contexts?

10.15.-11.15amJohn Amis, Responding to the Homeless Crisis: Personal Drivers of Collective Action

11.30-12.30     Juliane Reinecke, title TBC 

12.30-1.30       Open discussion: developing a research agenda

                                           Conclusion of event 

                                           Fingerfood provided  

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