This course focuses on “new narratives” of work and organization. An increasing number of organizations, from private businesses to public corporations, are putting sustainable development goals (SDGs) and matters of sustainability at the forefront of their communication strategies. Discourses of profit optimization, growth, revenue, financial performance and market domination seem to have lost their dominant standing in strategic organizational communication. Instead, organizations communicate transformed business models, sustainability in production and supply, mindfulness in employee voice and development, cultural and intersectional awareness, global fairness and fair leadership, paired with democratized (co-creative) and ethical work processes. One prominent example from the public sector is this summer course’s host itself, The University of Southern Denmark (SDU), that has announced, as the world’s first university, a total dedication to the UN world goals in their curricular and communicative strategy.
This summer school aims at casting a critical-analytical look at this new wave of corporate sustainability narratives.
The course consists of two main pillars: one on narratives as a scientific field consisting of diverse strands and multiple strategies of inquiry, and one on corporate SDGs as a recent, new phenomenon. The summer course will show that narrative studies are apt in order to reflect, critically assess, and further explore new corporate communicative phenomena.
a. Narratives as a scientific field with multiple strategies of inquiry
We will set aside time to provide a thorough introduction to the state of the art of narrative inquiry. Based on a general introduction to central theories and concepts within organizational communication and narrative studies, the course provides a scientific and research-based introduction to narrative studies and their use in organizations. We will introduce several kin of narrative (counter-narrative, storytelling, discourse, etc.) and discuss their value in understanding corporate change and communication practices. Methods and tools of narrative inquiry will be made tangible for the students, and we will demonstrate selected narrative ways of analysis.
b. Sustainable development goals in corporations
We will, inter alia, discuss fundamental theories in relation to function and task of a corporation. Are corporations, public or private, to serve sustainability values at all in the first place? We will also explore cases of new narrative “talk” and new narrative “walk”, where we discuss what claims are substantial and which ones are ceremonial in this sustainability turn. Manifold cases and tangible examples will introduce students to the latest research and business best practices as to new corporate narratives doing away with what can best described as “winner”-talk of the recent decades. We will further discuss how methods of storytelling can be applied to challenge and transform organizational practices, for instance through storytelling activism and with reflexive and change-oriented work with organizational narrative- small-story dynamics. Further, we will assess whether or not the new corporate narrative turn toward sustainability and SDGs is a believable and authentic new paradigm, and what corporations and society stand to gain from it. Is sustainability a buzzword that covers up more neoliberal growth and economy-fixated ideals or is it a promising and liberating concept that actually turns corporate foci more towards social and environmental issues?
The course will be taught in English.