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2021/2022  KAN-CSOCV1039U  Organizing for Change. Alternative Organizations Tackling Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges

English Title
Organizing for Change. Alternative Organizations Tackling Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges

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
Min. participants 20
Max. participants 80
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Social Sciences
Course coordinator
  • Birke Otto - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
  • Lena Olaison - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
Main academic disciplines
  • Management
  • Organisation
  • Sociology
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 08-02-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Explore alternative forms of organizing in private, public and civil society sectors
  • Understand the visions, strategies and limitations of alternative organizations to incite change
  • Identify the operational, managerial, entrepreneurial and leadership challenges of organizing for change
  • Develop a critical understanding of the historical, social and economic conditions of alternative organizations as well as their paradoxes and unintended effects
  • Explain and defend a position on alternative ways of organizing in relation socio-economic and cultural theories of change and their critiques.
Organizing for Change. Alternative Organizations Tackling Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam based on written product

In order to participate in the oral exam, the written product must be handed in before the oral exam; by the set deadline. The grade is based on an overall assessment of the written product and the individual oral performance, see also the rules about examination forms in the programme regulations.
Individual or group exam Oral group exam based on written group product
Number of people in the group 2-5
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Report
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
10 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam Home assignment - written product
Size of written product: Max. 10 pages
Assignment type: Essay
Duration: 7 days to prepare
Description of the exam procedure

Students must show the ability to critically engage with the theoretical concepts and literature discussed in class by focusing on one particular case. 

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

The aim of this course is to explore managerial, entrepreneurial and leadership challenges that alternative organizations face when striving to organize for change. Alternative organizations broadly describe a variety of practices that aim to ‘organize differently’ than the conventional governance forms presented in neoclassical economics, and which have the intention to tackle environmental degradation, social inequalities and democratic instability. By foregrounding values related to sustainability, equality, diversity as well as community, care, and responsibility, these organizations challenge the prevailing dominance of shareholder value, growth and competition.

The course introduces business and not-for-profit activities with the explicit intention of bringing about socio-economic change. On case examples, we focus particularly on organizational challenges emerging from tensions between financial growth and sustainability, authority and autonomy, collaboration and competition, inclusiveness and exclusiveness, innovation and disruption, as well as change and cooptation.

Our aim is to develop a critical understanding of alternative practices and their practical challenges in light of various socio-economic and cultural theories with regard to individualism/collectivism, the commons, post-growth, diversity, and digitalism. The course links theory and practice by introducing theoretical debates and concrete case studies on circular and local/small-scale economies, ‘non-growing’ companies, digital commons, sustainable entrepreneurship, and alternative finance and alternative performance measures. Further case studies can be selected by the students themselves.


The course is part of the minor in Transforming Business and Organizations to Build Sustainable and Democratic Economies, but can also be selected individually. It addresses students in their last year of their master who are looking for inspiration for their master theses.

Description of the teaching methods
The course consists of lectures, case discussions and group work in a blended learning format. Student groups are expected to prepare an oral presentation based on a case of an alternative organization to be presented in class. This exercise acts as preparation of the oral exam.
Feedback during the teaching period
The course offers the following feedback mechanisms:
First, students will have the opportunity to present a case study on an alternative organization followed by structured peer-to-peer feedback. This prepared interaction will form the basis for in-class discussions. Second, student presentation groups will receive individual feedback from teaching staff.
Student workload
Preparation 125 hours
Teaching 33 hours
Examination (incl preparation) 50 hours
Expected literature

Davis, G.F. (2016) ‘Can an economy survive without corporations? Technology and robust organizational alternatives’, Academy of Management Perspectives, 30(2): 129–140.


Freeman, J. (1972) ‘The Tyranny of Structurelessness’, The Second Wave (2:1).


Jackson, T. (2019) ‘The Post-Growth Challenge: Secular Stagnation, Inequality and the Limits to Growth’, Ecological Economics, 156: 236-246.


Mair, J., & Rathert, N. (2019) ‘Alternative organizing with social purpose: Revisiting institutional analysis of market-based activity’. Socio-Economic Review.


Parker, M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V. & Land, C. (eds.) (2014) The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization. London: Routledge.


Rothschild-Whitt, J (1979). The Collectivist Organization: An Alternative to Rational-Bureaucratic Models., American Sociological Review, 44(4):  509-527.

Last updated on 08-02-2021