Center for Advanced Management




Prof. Paula Jarzabkowski (University of London)


Datum: 6. Februar 2019

Zeit: 10.30 - 12.00 Uhr

Ort: Ludwigstraße 28 (VG), 211b

Titel: The process of navigating grand challenges across shifting inter-organizational paradoxes


Grand challenges are largescale, complex, enduring problems with a strong social component, such as endemic poverty and climate change. These system-wide challenges are inter-organizational, extending beyond the boundaries of a single organization or community. It is difficult to have a coordinated and collective response to address grand challenges because these numerous diverse actors have multiple competing strategic interests. For example, studies show that corporations have competing economic, regulatory and reputational objectives in relation to climate change, which pulls them in different directions. Strategic interests cannot be considered in isolation, but are interdependent with wider contemporaneous actions of other actors and over time. Contradictions between these interests emerge as the multiple different types of actors - including corporations, policy makers, climate scientists, and environmental organizations - need to interact to address challenges such as climate change. Grand challenges thus often appear intractable as the strategic actions of actors in one part of the system often have unintended consequences that compound the problems experienced by other actors.

We argue that there is a need to understand grand challenges as a problem of interdependent yet often competing strategic actions across distributed organizational actors, which may be better understood through a paradox lens. Paradoxes are “persistent contradictions between interdependent elements” (Schad et al., 2016: 10) at the individual, organizational, and systemic levels. Our study is focused on a global grand challenge that has socioeconomic importance: the ‘Protection Gap’. This refers to the issue that 70% of global economic loss following catastrophic disasters ($1.3 trillion over the past 10 years) has no ex-ante financial cover. We draw from an extensive longitudinal, qualitative data set on the different collaborative initiatives set up between state, market and intergovernmental actors in many countries around the world to address this challenge. Our findings will advance understanding of grand challenges as unfolding at the nexus of a complex and shifting set of contradictions that arise from the interdependent strategic actions of often distributed and loosely-connected organizational actors with different strategic interests.