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