The social relevance and social impact of knowledge and knowing

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9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The proposed Special Issue aims to explore a challenge currently present in the academic world – pursuing the social relevance of knowledge. The concept of the relevance of knowledge and the relationship between theory and practice has been widely addressed and discussed, for example in a number of journal special issues including Organization Studies (2009 and 2010), the Journal of Management Studies (2009) and the British Journal of Management (2011). In the search to balance ‘scientific rigour’ with ‘practical relevance’ (Eikeland and Nicolini, 2011), various modes of knowledge have been proposed: Mode 1 scientific, Mode 2 contextual (Gibbons et al, 1994), Mode 3 diverse stakeholders (Huff and Huff 2001), and Mode 0 patronage (Bresnen and Burrell, 2012). The question lying at the heart of this debate seems to be whether organization studies has anything meaningful and relevant to say (Alvesson, 2012). This question of the relevance of research has recently been considered as the outcome of a research process founded on the co-generation of knowledge, as emerging in the tradition of action research (see Cassell and Johnson, 2006; Reason and Bradbury, 2001), collaborative processes (Shani et al, 2008), and on generative dialogue between practitioners and academics who share the design and evaluation of a research effort. While this proves to be extremely useful for framing academic attention to knowledge and the practical impact of research in organizational contexts, it could be widened. This special issue proposal links with this literature on the co-production of knowledge, but also aims to extend the debate to the concept and practice of social value and social relevance, and their impact on different ways of knowing, researching and learning in organizations and in complex contexts and systems. In order to explain what social value means, we propose different features of the definition of the word ‘social’.  A first meaning highlights the dialogical and emergent ongoing process of knowledge generation: social is what happens within a co-creation process made by people in inter-relation (groups, organizations, communities) in order to give sense to their daily working life.  A second meaning relies on the cultural dimension of values, rules, collective identity that nurture the reciprocal influence between organizational context and its environment. Social in this case refers to the symbolic system diffused and implicit in a specific context.  A third meaning refers to the constant process of production and reproduction of situated systems of activity, triggering discussion, interactions and conflict dynamics by which people shape what they consider as intelligible, suitable and actionable in their context. Social in this case is connected with the organizational aesthetics and ethics, distributed and circulating in a specific context, facing to material and immaterial aspects of knowledge.  A fourth meaning relates to the plurality of voices, powers, and interests that can be listened to, and safeguarded. The social here points out the relevance of the engagement and involvement of different stakeholders who contribute through various levels of participation and who have a stake in the knowledge generated. This claim links directly to certain methodological approaches that take into account the possibility to research through multi-vocality and multi-perspectives processes (action research, collaborative research, participative inquiry etc).  A fifth meaning refers to the social capital and social impact generated by the organizational system whilst pursuing productive goals. Organizational processes may sustain and nurture trust, availability, involvement and collaboration as collateral functions for any kind of production or social achievement. The terms 'societal value' or 'shared value' (Porter and Kramer, 2011) i
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-362
Number of pages3
JournalManagement Learning
Volume45
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • impact
  • knowing
  • knowledge
  • relevance

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