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2024/2025  KAN-CSOCV2401U  Organizing For Desirable Futures

English Title
Organizing For Desirable Futures

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 80
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Social Sciences
Course coordinator
  • Birke Otto - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
  • Lena Olaison - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • Human resource management
  • Organisation
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 16-01-2024

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Explore alternative forms of organizing in private, public and civil society sectors
  • Gain an understanding of the visions, strategies, and values driving transformative organizing
  • Identify alternative approaches to decision-making, ownership structures, leadership styles, and growth models
  • Engage in discussions about the limitations, paradoxes, and unintended consequences of alternative forms of organizing
  • Develop a critical understanding of the historical, social, and economic conditions fostering the emergence of alternative organizations
  • Articulate and defend a stance on alternative ways of organizing in relation to social, economic and organizational theories of change and their critiques
Organizing for Desirable Futures:
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
Release of assignment Subject chosen by students themselves, see guidelines if any
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
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 objective of this course is to examine the managerial, entrepreneurial, and operational challenges faced by alternative organizations as they strive to implement transformative changes. Alternative organizations encompass a range of practices that address issues such as environmental degradation, social inequalities, and democratic instability. By prioritizing values such as sustainability, equality, responsibility, and care, alternative organizations aim to challenge the prevailing emphasis on shareholder value, growth, and competition and experiment with practices that seek to depart from the conventional governance structures found in neoclassical economics. We explore such alternative ways of organizing in various types of organizations, including large businesses, small startups, social enterprises, public agencies, worker and consumer cooperatives, and social movements.


The first module of the course introduces different definitions, types, and values associated with alternative organizations. It engages with various critiques of conventional organizing and investigates how alternative organizations emerge in response to salient issues or institutional failures. In the second module, students analyze case studies to explore the specific organizational challenges arising from managing tensions between financial growth and sustainability, collaboration and competition, autonomy and authority, inclusion and exclusion, innovation and disruption, and change and cooptation. The course introduces alternative approaches to decision-making processes, ownership structures, leadership styles, and (post)growth models that aim to achieve sustainable social change. The final part of the course examines the systemic and institutional conditions necessary for scaling up change initiatives and creating resilient and sustainable organizations.


The aim is to foster a critical understanding of alternative organizing practices, including their limitations, paradoxes and unintended effects, by considering various social, economic and organizational theories of change. The case studies encompass alternative finance organizations, 'non-growing' companies, leaderless organizations, digital commons, circular economies, sustainable entrepreneurship, and feminist organizations. Students also have the opportunity to select additional case studies based on their interests and preferences and will have the opportunity to discuss their insights with practitioners who will share how they translate their values and visions of transformation into concrete daily organizational practices.


The course is part of the minor in Building Organizations for Sustainable Futures: Business and Economics in Transformation, but can also be selected individually. It adresses 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. 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:
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. Student presentation groups will also 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 16-01-2024