Paradox and Societal Challenges


Societal challenges are defined as large-scale, complex, enduring problems, with a strong social component. Management scholars (and related disciplines) have taken interest in how to better understand and tackle societal challenges such as mass displacement and migration, endemic poverty, social or gender inequality or exclusion, social isolation, and, most recently, social implications of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Prior work has established that tackling social challenges, which often exit across multiple levels of society, requires coordinated and collaborative effort from across sectors but, acknowledges that cross-sector collaborations are often rife with managerial and organizational tensions of their own.

Prior work has also acknowledged that societal challenges exist at a local level - they are experienced in teams, in organisations, and in communities and require localised responses. Grassroots, entrepreneurial, and local public sector initiatives can help to relieve localised social challenges but, are often unequipped to scale for impact.

Paradox theory offers a relevant, novel lens to understand both the tensions underpinning salient social issues and, can shed new light on the efforts required to resolve them - on and across levels of analysis. In response, we are organizing a combined panel session and virtual paper development session to support researchers studying societal challenges and paradox.

We are excited to have Jonatan Pinkse (Manchester University). Paul Tracey (University of Cambridge) and Tobias Hahn (ESADE) joining us as panelists and discussants for the first session and Garima Sharma (Georgia State University), Sophie Bacq (Indiana University) and Wendy Smith (University of Delaware) joining us for the second session. We hope you join us!

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