An Action Research Approach
Author: Judi Marshall,Gill Coleman,Peter Reason
Category: Business & Economics
Those who advocate moving towards sustainability debate how change can be achieved. Does it have necessarily to be top-down or can it also be bottom-up? Can radical organizational and social change be spread from "the middle"? Who can lead change when those with seniority and credibility are necessarily embedded in currently dominant mind-sets and power structures? This book focuses on what it means to take up leadership for sustainability, from a variety of organizational and social positions, and considers the consequences of different strategies and practices for influencing change. Leadership for Sustainability shows what an action research based practice of leadership for sustainability looks like and provides a sense of the personal and professional challenges this involves; it demonstrates how people who are influencing change draw on reflective practice strategically (to create a context in which they can be influential) and also tactically (in moment-to-moment choices about how to act). It also illustrates and reflects on the kinds of outcomes that can be expected from this work, both the specific and strategic achievements, and the difficulties, challenges and disappointments. Thus the major part of this volume consists of accounts by graduates of an innovative master's programme, the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice, of their activities, projects, achievements and learning. Accompanying sections from the editors overview, analyse and reflect on these accounts and the issues they raise for notions of leadership, practice, sustainability and change. One substantial chapter offers ideas, frameworks and practices for people taking leadership. One of the most dispiriting aspects of the environmental challenges that beset us is the lack of agency that many people experience: we do not know what to do or how to do it. Many organizations espouse a sustainable approach. This may be lip service or it may be a genuine attempt to integrate sustainability into business strategy. Whatever form it takes, organizational sustainability programmes need committed, intelligent, reflective leadership at all levels to make them work. The examples in this book show how people in very different contexts have seized the opportunities open to them and acted with courage and initiative to make a difference. This book will be relevant to a wide range of people, including managers, consultants and others in commercial, non-profit, public and intergovernmental organisations who want to contribute to the development of a sustainable world. It will be of particular interest to people working in organizations already thinking about issues of sustainability and those who are seeking to take on the role of change agents in organisations or communities. In addition, the book will be a resource for those in educational fields, primarily but not exclusively higher and further education, who wish to work with their students to develop leadership practices through action research based educational approaches. All contributors to this book have been associated with the MSc in Responsibility & Business Practice at the University of Bath, School of Management, UK, either as tutors or participants. This innovative degree course used action research to engage with challenging issues in a wide range of business, public service and civil society contexts.At the heart of this book are stories from 29 people who are seeking to make the world more environmentally sustainable and socially just. They report their purposes, journeys, impacts, learning and disappointments. Their accounts are diverse and from many different worlds, ranging from fast moving consumer goods to international forestry and conservation projects. They have in common that they are among the 254 graduates of an innovative Master's programme, the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice community, who in one way or another are adopting action research as a practice of taking leadership for sustainability, and believe their actions can be significant contributions to the causes that matter to them.