From Scarcity to Abundance: Organisational Sustainability and the Role of the Civic Entrepreneur

By Sam Wells and Stephanie Betz.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the challenges confronting corporate change leaders, faced with the task of reconceiving established organisations in response to an emerging ‘sustainability’ paradigm, and of convincing change followers to engage with the concrete, organisational expression of that new paradigm. Successful adaptation requires change leaders, first, to achieve their own conceptual shift – a ‘reconception’ of the purpose, priorities and strategies of the institution. They must then be able to convince their change followers to embrace the concrete institutional changes that reflect the shift. In this context, the paper proposes that the ‘pilot’ programme, often utilised by change agents, may serve to bridge the conceptual thinking gap between leader and follower, by providing a concrete experience of the envisioned destination.
We explore some of the changes in mental models that need to be made if organisational thinking is to take the important step from fragmentation and ‘scarcity’, to integration and ‘abundance’. We describe the important role of commercial enterprise, which is naturally integrative, in grappling with some of these critical issues. Finally, we propose a special role for the ‘civic entrepreneur’, who shares with the corporate world a capacity and respect for integrative enterprise, but is not constrained by inherited institutional rigidities. Civic entrepreneurs pursue the creation of ‘common’ or community wealth – value created over and above the cost of financial, social and natural capital. In doing so, they become a resource for the corporate change leader. By ‘piloting’ new models of integration and abundance, civic entrepreneurs can provide conceptual inspiration to corporate change leaders. But they can also present corporate change followers, vicariously, with a concrete experience of ‘sustainability’ – examples of enterprise-based sustainability in practice.

Keywords: Organisational Sustainability, Civic Entrepreneurship, Paradigm Shift, Pilot

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.211-228. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.201MB).

Dr. Sam Wells

Senior Lecturer, University of Adelaide Business School, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Sam Wells graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1978 with 1st Class Honours in History. As South Australia’s 1979 Rhodes Scholar, he completed his doctorate at Oxford in 1983. Sam spent 18 years in corporate human resource management and organisational development. He established his own consulting business in 2001 and continues to advise CEOs and executive teams on cultivating organisations in which employees at all levels can ‘be everything they are’. In 2005 Sam was appointed as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide. In 2007 he became MBA Director in the University of Adelaide Business School. Sam’s research and personal interests focus on sustainability, both in its broadest sense, and as it applies to organisations and the management of people within organisations.

Stephanie Betz

University of Adelaide Business School, The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Stephanie Betz graduated from the University of Corporate Education in Mannheim with a focus on Industry/Aviation in 2002. After six years in the Aviation industry at a major German airport, she undertook her Master of Business Administration at the University of Adelaide, with electives in Global Business, Entrepreneurship and Organisational Sustainability. Steff returned to her roots in the European Aviation Industry in 2006. She worked for the European Parliament in Industry and Trade as an intern. Since May 2007 she has worked as a consultant focusing on strategy, organisational change and site development. Steff’s research and personal interests focus on sustainability, currently in the aviation industry and its visions for the future.


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