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2021/2022  KAN-CCBLV1035U  Corporate Helping: Humanitarianism and Development

English Title
Corporate Helping: Humanitarianism and Development

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for BSc and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Lisa Ann Richey - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
  • Verena Girschik - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Anne Vestergaard is co-coordinating the course but will not be listed as course responsible
Main academic disciplines
  • Globalisation and international business
  • Communication
  • Political Science
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 28-04-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
At the end of the course, the students must demonstrate that they are able to:
  • 1. Understand, explain, and discuss how companies collaborate, commodify, and communicate their activities related to humanitarianism and development.
  • 2. Students are expected to develop a theoretically-informed, critical understanding of what corporate helping in humanitarianism and development can mean for business and society. 2. Analyze corporate helping processes based on selected theories, concepts and ideas from the course literature
  • 3. Critically evaluate corporate helping processes with sensitivity to their expression in diverse contexts and from multiple perspectives.
  • 4. Compare and contrast the different theoretical perspectives as well as the different understandings of private and humanitarian actors, and discuss the implications thereof
  • 5. Critically analyze relevant cases of corporate involvement in humanitarianism and/or development and reflect on its implications.
Course prerequisites
No prior qualifications needed, only intellectual curiosity and a willingness to examine and challenge your own assumptions about corporate helping in humanitarianism and development can achieve for business and society.
Corporate Helping: Humanitarianism and Development:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Autumn
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

The students will complete a 10 page max. independent research paper on a topic of their choice. The paper will be based on the course literature and additional academic sources chosen by the student. The course will support the development of a strong problem statement for organizing the paper's thesis.  Students will be expected to use the entire course period for development of the ideas and research in their final paper.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Businesses are increasingly taking on direct roles in development as well as humanitarian action, not merely as donors to the charitable work of others, but as practitioners in their own right, sometimes in collaboration with non-profit actors. Whether students are going to roles in the corporate social responsibility divisions of large corporations or in development agencies and nonprofits, they will face the blurred boundaries between market and humanitarian spheres. The purpose of this course is to equip students with the theoretical and analytical tools that allow them to understand how corporations engage with humanitarianism, why, and to what effects.


As a result of the changing landscape of corporate development practice, our students require a broader interdisciplinary grounding. In addition to insights on the role of business in development from organization and management studies, this course provides students with relevant context from political science, development studies, critical geography, and media/communication studies.


The course starts with an introduction to the international organizational landscape around the humanitarian-development nexus as well as the traditional and changing roles of companies therein. After the introductory session, the remainder of the course is organized in three thematic blocs: 


  1. Collaboration: Many companies make charitable donations to humanitarian causes, yet there is a strong tendency for companies to be increasingly involved in the actual delivery of assistance, for example by offering their own products or services for sale to frontline relief organizations or through transformational partnerships that seek to develop innovative solutions. This first bloc explores the various ways in which companies collaborate with humanitarian actors and discusses the challenges inherent in such partnerships.


  1. Communication: Our frame of communication arises from engaged debates in the fields of media and communication studies and business where scholars try to theorize the relationships between media and socio-cultural forms. On the basis of a fifty year genealogy of humanitarian communication, Chouliaraki’s concept of post-humanitarianism charts a shift in communications demonstrating a show of pity for the distant other to those created by ironic spectators who avoid larger questions of structural inequality and justification for action. Corporate communications must engage with the shifting realities of the media and the humanitarian landscapes and learn how to communicate their helping. What kinds of challenges do corporate humanitarian communications create as well as what kinds of global challenges do they attempt to engage with a response?


  1. Commodification: Humanitarian ‘helping’ itself can become a brand. Our frame of mediatization arises from an engaged debate in the field of media and communication studies where scholars try to theorize the relationships between media and socio-cultural forms commodity, as understood by Ibert et al. as ‘a composite of the facets and qualities of a good or service commodity that is deliberately chosen, integrated and communicated by actors as a coherent entity.’ Humanitarian branding is important for all aspects of business and development studies. Strategic motivations for business to enter the humanitarian sphere, which include the cultivation of goodwill from consumers and the expansion of a brand into new markets, can provide a profit rationale for charitable or not-for-profit actions.


Overall, the course enables students to develop theoretically-informed, critical understandings of what corporate helping in humanitarianism and development can mean for business and society.


Description of the teaching methods
The course will combine lectures with interactive discussion around the perspectives introduced in the readings. To facilitate discussion, every session has an element of group work for engaging the theories we use with real world examples. Some of the group work will be devoted to working with case examples which students will prepare and discuss together in their groups, while others will be used to analyze more deeply the texts from the lectures.
Feedback during the teaching period
The main way for students to obtain feedback on their readings and work for this course is through active participation in class. Feedback takes place as part of the teaching, via questions and discussion. The case exercises serve as feedback as the students are encouraged to reflect, discuss and develop concepts in relation to an empirical case. Students are expected to attend lectures and discussion sessions, to come prepared and participate actively. Students will also receive feedback from their work on a compulsory home assignment. This will be an essay written at home of maximum 5 pages. The students will bring the essay to class and receive oral and written peer-feedback and group feedback from the course coordinators. In addition to feedback on the assignment, the class will serve as a writing workshop aimed at enabling students to effectively incorporate the feedback in their writing process. Finally, students can receive individual or group feedback during the regular consultation hours.
Student workload
class participation 30 hours
preparation for classes and exam 128 hours
final independent research paper 48 hours
Expected literature

Students should anticipate that this will be a reading-heavy course as the content is linked to critical reflection on the existing academic knowledge base. Course reading will come from academic books and articles such as these:



  • Andonova, L. B. (2017). Governance Entrepreneurs: International Organizations and the Rise of Global Public-Private Partnerships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Andreu M(2018) A responsibility to profit? Social impact bonds as a form of ‘humanitarian finance’. New Political Science 40(4): 708–726.
  • Ballesteros, L., Useem, M., & Wry, T. (2017). Masters of disasters? An empirical analysis of how societies benefit from corporate disaster aid. Academy of Management Journal, 60(5), 1682-1708.
  • Banerjee, S. B. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: The good, the bad and the ugly. Critical sociology, 34(1), 51-79.
  • Brei, V., & Böhm, S. (2011). Corporate social responsibility as cultural meaning management: A critique of the marketing of ‘ethical’ bottled water. Business Ethics, 20(3), 233–252. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1111/​j.1467-8608.2011.01626.x
  • Chun, R., Argandoña, A., Choirat, C., Siegel, D.S., 2019. Corporate Reputation: Being Good and Looking Good. Bus. Soc. 58, 1132–1142. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1177/​0007650319826520
  • Hotho, J., Girschik, V., 2019. Corporate engagement in humanitarian action: Concepts, challenges, and areas for international business research. Crit. Perspect. Int. Bus. 15, 201–218. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1108/​cpoib-02-2019-0015
  • Kolk, A., & Lenfant, F. (2015). Partnerships for peace and development in fragile states: Identifying missing links. Academy of Management Perspectives, 29(4), 422-437. Krishna, A., Rajan, U., 2009. Cause Marketing: Spillover Effects of Cause-Related Products in a Product Portfolio. Manag. Sci. 55, 1469–1485. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1287/​mnsc.1090.1043
  • Richey, L.A. and A.C. Budabin (2021) Batman Saves the Congo: Business, Disruption and the Politics of Development, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Vestergaard, A., Murphy, L., Morsing, M., & Langevang, T. (2019). Cross-sector partnerships as capitalism’s new development agents: Reconceiving impact as empowerment. Business & Society, doi:10.1177/​0007650319845327.


Last updated on 28-04-2021