Research programme Organization Sciences

Organizations & Processes of Organizing in Society (OPOS)

We live in a ‘society of organizations’ (Perrow 1991), facing a “worldwide explosion of organizations and organizing” (Drori, Meyer & Hwang, 2006:1). Therefore, organizations are key to our understanding of societal dynamics, just as insights into ‘society’ are crucial for our understanding of processes of organizing (Friedland & Alford 1991). Following the mission statement of Europe’s most prominent journal in this academic field, Organization Studies, future research needs to feature ways in which “organizations ... are interpenetrated with society and generate specific patterns of how we live in societies, as well as how those societies are actually governed and shaped” (Courpasson et al. 2008: 1386). Research within the Department of Organization Sciences (ORG) at VU University Amsterdam centres on the intersection of organization and society. The research program “Organizations and Processes of Organizing within Society” (OPOS) seeks answers to such questions as how inter-organizational networks function or fail to function in our ‘network society’, how cross-boundary collaboration and conflicts evolve over time, how organizational changes are instigated, supported, and/or resisted, and how they make (or unmake) sense of their work, their organization, and themselves.

In our research, we take a distinctly social scientific approach*:

  • Friction between organization & disorganization
  • Actor-centred and context-sensitive
  • Social scientific methodologies
  • Engaged scholarship

Dis/connected worlds and cross-boundary communication in/ between organizations
A first research theme in the OPOS research program centres around issues of collaboration and conflict in and between organizations. In a ‘network society’, individuals are constantly involved in boundary-spanning interactions across social and cultural divides. Using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods, we investigate the communicative efforts of actors establishing, maintaining or disrupting collaborative networks, institutional arrangements and organizational identities. The central research question is: How do organizational actors (re-)position their work, their profession, their organization and themselves within an increasingly networked, ‘boundaryless’ society?

a. Organizational and social networks in a heterogeneous information society
b. Identity formation across institutional boundaries

Changing worlds and cultural dynamics in/between organizations
A second theme addresses the increasingly transient if not ‘liquid’ nature of contemporary organizations by zooming in on instances of organizational upheaval. Using interpretive methods and action research, OPOS research draws close to subjects and situations and describes organizational life ‘from within’ and ‘from below’. This way, we bring into view the political, cultural and emotional dynamics of organizational actors’ meaning-making processes in transformative contexts. The central research question is: How do organizational actors instigate, support, or resist organizational change and institutional transformation?

c. Frame-breaking organizational change in a transformational society
d. Ethnography of meaning-making processes within/ between organizations

*For more information about the OPOS Research Program and our social scientific approach please refer to the PDF-document.

Publications (Source: METIS VU)