Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Organizing in Fields of Tensions and Alliances (ELOSA)

We are interested in leadership and organizing that embodies nontraditional enterprises and organizations. Our objects of study are sports associations, theaters and art museums, co-operative community health care centers and homes for the elderly, the City Mission, harvest festivals, free schools, music festivals and educational activities

Our research

ELOSA is a unique research group with considerable growth potential. We represent different disciplines (business administration, tourism studies, ethnology and sociology) with different areas of focus such as entrepreneurship, leadership, organization, project management, tourism and health. We have different theoretical starting-points, spanning from new-institutional theory and power theories over ideas about sense-making to complexity theory applied to leadership and entrepreneurial processes. What unite us are primarily three things:

  • We are especially interested in leadership and organizing that embodies nontraditional enterprises and organizations. Our objects of study are sports associations, theaters and art museums, co-operative community health care centers and homes for the elderly, the City Mission, harvest festivals, free schools, music festivals and educational activities. Some belong to what we call civil society organizations or the so called third sector, while others reside in the cross-section between private, public and non-profit, civil sectors. These are operations far from big city lights, in sparsely populated neighborhoods and in the seams between established institutions such as companies and administrations.
  • We all study that which we can call the fields of tensions between a) stakeholders b) idea systems c) leadership practices. Another way to describe it is different ideologies, logics, systems of thought or worlds. We are all interested in how one leads, organizes and develops activities in this field of tensions.
  • A consistent theme is that tensions arise around that which is called "commerce" or in other words, economical rationality (logic, ideology). We can identify tensions between culture and commerce, sports and commerce, the church and commerce, health and commerce, people's movements and commerce, etc.

Individually, the above named things are not particularly special. There are many scholars who occupy themselves with aspects of this field of tensions. Few research groups, however, can boast such an interdisciplinary competence and such a large number of committed scholars from different scientific disciplines as we can. For many years we have conducted research, education and development within the area of study, with publications that comprise many different formats both nationally and internationally. What is particularly noteworthy is our ability to write in such a way as to make the research results approachable for a broader target group than normal (see attachment for CVs and publications). We have also conducted multi-year education programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels as well as at the commissioned educational level. What also characterizes us is that many of us are active within our fields of study as members, practitioners, officials, consultants and/or action researcher. What we have not done thus far, however, is to build a national and international competence environment in a coherent way. This is what we aim to achieve with this project.

Background for the research

Society can be divided up into three sectors: the public, private and non-profit (third) sectors, which encompass idea based, non-profit organizations, people's movements, foundations and other stakeholders in civil society. A similar basis for classification is based on different forms of organization which distinguishes between Administration, Company and Association. The third sector's increasing significance is also apparent in the growing discussions about social entrepreneurship, social economy, social business enterprise and social innovation. This sector seems to be of particular importance in rural and sparsely populated areas. In many places, it is the sports associations that create a sense of belonging and quality of life through events and services. In other places it is the small theater association that, in an abandoned barn, creates a rendezvous between the people of the countryside and the global culture. Another example is living facilities for the elderly being taken over by neighborhood residents, its tenants and their families in community cooperatives.

The non-profit sector in change

The non-profit, third sector is characterized by a demand for changes. The social capital is decreasing and community involvement is changing, which, among other things, leads to problems in recruiting people to leading positions in non-profit associations. Other changes have to do with the fact that companies and other stakeholders within the sector are taking over functions that were previously handled by public administrations. Still another change involves voluntary associations and cooperatives adopting business logic and leaving behind their idealism in favor of increasingly commercialized and professionalized operations.

We also observe that it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish between the private, public and the non-profit, third sector, as well as between their organizational forms: company, administration and associations. They all "borrow" from each other, creating hybrids of different forms. This results in tensions between different institutional logics so that management must act in order to create alliances between the different stakeholders representing different logics.

Tension around commerce

Of particular significance is the tension that arises between the center of operations (for example culture and health care) and that which we call "commerce". "Commerce" refers to a particular logic of action where the company seeks to maximize its profits by offering products and services to a market. This includes a specific logic regarding appropriate management practices, including what is deemed important for rational decision making. This can also be described as capitalism or as managerialism. Translating this logic to operations and organizations that traditionally belonged to the public or non-profit sector can be problematic. This is shown in studies done by the group's members who have focused on the problems and opportunities faced by the New Public Managements within the public sector. Now we want to see what's happening with Post New Public Management, that is to say, what happens when the association form increasingly comes in and affects the forms of administrations and companies?

In addition, we are interested in what happens when "commerce" increasingly influences sports associations, charity organizations, political organizations, the cultural sector, etc. Particularly interesting is when it is about increased entrepreneurship. Studies have shown that the use of established management practices and economic logics, as drawn from bigger companies, do not necessarily foster entrepreneurship, whether we are talking about completely new operations or the redevelopment of established operations. The reason for this may be difference in the underlying ideology and associated logic.

Therefore, it is not unusual that an image is drawn where tension between different logics (rationalities) is seen as a problem. Our approach is different in that we impartially study what happens and how, from a leadership perspective, one can establish, lead and organize operations in this field of tensions.


Research Projects

Art and Commerce – a strong field of tension and enriching alliances

Art and commerce are different institutional logics that create a palpable field of tension which means very enriching alliances. Those areas, branches and organizations that we study and work with are dominated to a great degree by these two logics: from non-profit cultural associations to artistic institutions, and on to the design, music and glass industries. Our research is conducted in close cooperation with regional and national parties from all three types of operations: associations, administrations and companies.

In our continuing and pending projects we aim to find out how the cultural sector, through entrepreneurship, management and organizational development, can be further developed, particularly in rural areas. The character of the research is such that it is essential that it be conducted in close cooperation, and with active contributions from the stakeholders themselves. Their experiences will be collected through co-production and the results can be coupled back to the organization, giving rise to new research and development projects. For example, this can be about how a non-profit festival organization can develop better profitability or how one can lead and run an artistic business, or it can also be about the development of business practices in, for example, the glass industry, with an artistic alliance as its starting point. It could also be about the so-called artistic intervention in the region's companies being used to develop their personnel and organizations. The projects can be both pure development projects and also specially aimed education programs where the target groups are coalitions, administrations and companies.

Contact: Lars Lindkvist

Sports Associations in the Field of Tensions between Charity, Commercialization and Professionalization

Sports associations are some of Sweden's most important organizations. Those in rural areas are of particular importance. Trends toward commercialization and professionalization, however, are creating challenges. More and more people claim that the existence of many sports associations are being threatened, partly because it is difficult to recruit people to positions of power, and partly because of economic difficulties. Not only does this mean a threat for all of the athletes, but for the local communities as well. This has a negative impact on the business community in the form of decreased consumption as well as decreased attractiveness. A diminished attractiveness is also negative in the broader quality of life perspective.

An interesting project is therefore to research alternative strategies for managing and organizing sports associations. In terms of actual implementation this could be done by arranging meetings where business operators, administrations and coalitions could meet, and with the help of students, scholars and other human resources, explore new possibilities. It would be especially interesting to explore how people who are currently unemployed could be used in this work. Time is a scarce resource for coalitions, and these people might therefore function as catalysts. In an international perspective, this kind of research project would be unique. Not only because of its focus on the management and development of sports associations on a grassroots level, but also because the association is examined in relation to businesses and administrations.

Contact: Magnus Forslund

The City Mission in the Field of Tension between different interests

The City Missions in Sweden are organizations whose operations are managed with a clear charitable purpose characterized by both the daily work and the way in which they are lead and organized. The operations are conducted in both a non-profit and professional way by laymen, parish educators, ordained deacons and priests. They all have a clear Christian belief system in common which often also makes up an internal driving force characteristic of those people who run and manage a City Mission. The City Mission's managers are placed to lead a business with a clear role in the local welfare system, in an arena consisting of relationships to many different interests. At the same time, the City Mission's managers are in a position of serving the people who are most vulnerable, and it is common that a part of these people's recovery is to perform some kind of function in the City Mission's operations. A business and a leadership with a clear focus and inner drive to serve, and at the same to lead, create an image of a multifaceted, dynamic and complex field of tension to study.

The initial overall aim of the study is to try and understand the serving-leadership through:
• identifying and problematizing different fields of tension that the City Mission's managers can find themselves in, and in that way seek out the serving-leadership character and role,
• identifying and problematizing the effects of the serving-leadership in its actual context in order to study it in other contexts.

The empirical context is planned to consist of City Missions connected to the National Association of Sweden's City Missions. At the time when this proposal is written, this includes seven City Missions: City Missions in Kalmar, Gothenburg, Linköping, Skåne, Stockholm, Uppsala and Västerås.

Contact: Christer Foghagen

The People’s Movement in the Field of Tensions between employee and member interests

The People's Movement has a democratic organization structure through membership. Throughout the decades they have also been professionalized for example, by compensating labor. Today this means that members elect their local board of directors, representatives for the coalition elect their district board of directors and coalitions/districts elect their federation board of trustees. In addition, at every level there can also be employed personnel who run operations. This means that there are both paid and unpaid workers in the operations. This even includes the management, where there can be paid managers on all three levels (association, district and federation) as well as elected representatives. The elected board of directors employs the operations manager and the operations manager is greatly governed by the elected chairman.

NBV, The Educational Association of the Sobriety Movement, stems from the Order of the Good Templars established in 1894. Today they are owned by 21 non-profit (member-) organizations with over 150,000 members. NBV is divided into 15 departments and has over 60 offices in Sweden.

Our planned future research involves the study of 15 department heads' leadership in relationship to employees and volunteer members at the national-, district- and association level. The starting point for the empirical research is the department heads' implementation of leadership education within NBV and Linnaeus University's School of Business and Economics during the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013. We will supplement this research with findings from a corresponding education program for "junior member of staff" during the spring and fall of 2013.

Contact: Leif Marcusson