Grand Challenges and Robust Action

Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited

My latest paper — Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited — is now available online. Co-authored with Fabrizio Ferraro (IESE Business School in Bacelona) and Dror Etzion (McGill University in Montreal), in the paper we theorize a novel approach to addressing the world’s grand challenges based on the philosophical tradition of American pragmatism and the sociological concept of robust action. Grounded in prior empirical organizational research, we identify three robust strategies that organizations can employ in tackling issues such as climate change and poverty alleviation: participatory architecture, multivocal inscriptions and distributed experimentation. We demonstrate how these strategies operate, the manner in which they are linked, the outcomes they generate, and why they are applicable for resolving grand challenges. We conclude by discussing our contributions to research on robust action and grand challenges, as well as some implications for research on stakeholder theory, institutional theory and theories of valuation.

For those without access to a university library, the paper is available through ResearchGate.

2015 Research Internships

For the second year, I have hired research interns through the University of Alberta Research Experience. In 2013, I supervised Christopher Lee from McGill University. This summer, I am supervising Chloe Prosser from the University of Wisconsin, Kailun Hong from Technische Universität München, and Songjingyi Liang from Fudan University. Hard to believe, but it is already time to begin recruiting for summer 2015! I will be recruiting students for the following positions.

  • MySQL Database Assistant
  • Social Media Programmer
  • Mediawiki Programmer
  • Stata Research Assistant
  • Legal Research Assistant
  • Sustainability Research Assistant
  • Literature Review Assistant
  • WellWiki Content Writer

Institutions participating in the University of Alberta Research Experience include: UNICAMP, USP, UFRJ, Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), Technische Universität München (TUM), Seoul National University (SNU), ITESM Guadalajara, University of Western Australia (UWA), Auckland University, Penn State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Texas Austin, IIT Bombay, IIT Kharagpur, University of Hyderabad, Fudan University, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang Univeristy, Sichuan Univeristy, East China Normal University (ECNU), and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST).

ARCS Conference People’s Choice Award

arcsI’m pleased to report that my working paper, co-authored with Dror Etzion (McGill University), on “An Exploratory Analysis of Cultural Vulnerability and Opportunity Exploitation in Marcellus Shale Drilling,” won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS) Conference. Hosted by Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, this year’s attendees selected three papers for the award from among the 39 papers presented.

The two other winners included:

  • A dynamic process model of contentious politics: Activist targeting and corporate receptivity to social challenges, by Mary-Hunter McDonnell (Georgetown), Brayden King (Kellogg), and Sarah Soule (Stanford)
  • Can firms pay less and get more…by doing good? Field experimental evidence of the effect of corporate social responsibility on employee salary requirements and performance, by Vanessa Burbano (UCLA)

ARCS is a consortium of member universities, including the University of California, Berkeley (Haas School of Business), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Anderson School of Management), Cornell University (Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management), Dartmouth University (Tuck School of Business), Duke University (Nicholas School of Environment), Erasmus University (Rotterdam School of Management), Harvard University (Harvard University Center for the Environment), Indiana University (Kelley School of Business), INSEAD (INSEAD Social Innovation Centre), the University of Michigan (Ross School of Business), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School of Management), Northwestern University (Kellogg School of Management Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship), the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership), the University of Virginia (Darden School of Business), Western University (Ivey School of Business) and Yale University (Yale Center for Business and the Environment).

Oil and Gas Well Facility Siting

This week I’ll be giving an invited talk to the University of Alberta’s Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology (REES) in the Faculty of Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES). The talk will be on Thursday, March 20 at 3:30 pm in 550 General Services Building. For more details, visit the REES Seminars and Lectures website. The title of my talk is: “Community Vulnerability and Facility Siting: The Case of Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling, 2004-2012.” This work is joint with Dror Etzion of McGill University.

Abstract: Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has rapidly emerged as an ubiquitous technology for extracting oil and gas from previously inaccessible geological formations. Due to the nature of the technology and its relatively small surface footprint, wells can be sited virtually anywhere, including in close proximity to homes, schools and other sensitive locations. With many uncertainties about the technology still unresolved, critics point to the potential for unequally distributed negative health outcomes among those in regular proximity to drilling sites. Accordingly, for oil and gas companies, deciding upon well sites can be a contentious activity, incorporating not only economic and geological factors but social and community ones as well. In this study, we examine all hydraulically fractured wells in the Marcellus shale play from 2004-2012 in the state of Pennsylvania and assess whether community vulnerabilities played a role in well siting decisions. We find that indicators of socio-demographics, social cohesion and municipal governance are predictors of well siting decisions, beyond the traditional attributes of race and income usually highlighted in the environmental justice literature. Our findings suggest that research on community health should not be limited to phenomena like nuclear power plants and hazardous waste facilities, but should expand to include routine, commonplace and autonomous organizational siting decisions characterized by minimal regulatory involvement.

We are scheduled to present subsequent iterations of this research at the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability, in May 2014 at Cornell University, and again at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, in August 2014 in Philadelphia.

Marcellus Shale Drilling Talk

This week I was invited to give a talk to the University of Alberta’s Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology (REES) in the Faculty of Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES), and I am really looking forward to it. The talk is scheduled for March. I’ll be presenting research related to Marcellus Shale Drilling that I have been working on with Dror Etzion from McGill University.

For more details, check back here, or visit the REES Seminars and Lectures website: