PhD Event


Merle Rautenberg - 1st year PhD presentation

Exploring tensions in sustainable transformation

Info about event


Wednesday 17 August 2022,  at 14:00 - 14:45




Department of Management

Supervisors: Anne Ellerup Nielsen & Sophie Esmann
Discussants: Birte Asmuβ & Irene Pollach

Cross-sectoral partnerships are partnerships between political, economic and societal actors (Koschmann et al., 2012; Selsky & Parker, 2005). Researchers have stressed the transformational potential of these partnerships to tackle issues that are too demanding for one organization or sector alone, such as sustainability (Clarke & Crane, 2018; Waddock, 1989). They are particularly powerful due to their ability to address complex and multifaceted issues characterized by diverse multiple interests, and they can create value for the involved actors, the local community as well as the socio-ecological system within which they are embedded (Clarke & Crane, 2018; Clarke & MacDonald, 2019; Dentoni et al., 2021).

Previous studies show that despite collaborative efforts, cross-sectoral partnerships encounter the challenge of managing contrasting interests and agendas of the involved actors: Tensions may arise between present and future temporal contexts, or conflicting interests between political and economic agendas clashing with environmental impact and public acceptability (Clarke & MacDonald, 2019; Islar & Busch, 2016; Slawinski & Bansal, 2015; Van der Byl & Slawinski, 2015; Walker et al., 2007).

However, we have little empirical knowledge about the nature and development of such tensions as well as of how these tensions contribute to processes of sustainable transformation. While a paradox approach to study tensions acknowledges contradictory demands, research in sustainability tend to simplify the role and experience of tensions and has foremost focused on either-or solutions, as in trade-offs or dilemmas, thus suggesting sustainable transformation to prioritize between economic, environmental or social purposes (Slawinski & Bansal, 2012).

Building on the notion that tensions are unavoidable and a fundamental premise of sustainable transformation, (Hahn & Knight, 2021) the purpose of this PhD project is to empirically explore how tensions emerge in sustainable transformation and how political, economic and societal actors in cross-sectoral partnerships navigate the tensions (Austin & Seitanidi, 2012; Pedersen et al., 2021, p. 1042).

As an empirical context, the European Green Deal and projects for its national and local execution are taken as a point of departure. Here, a local cross-sectoral partnership focusing on renewable energy transition has been chosen as a particular relevant site to explore a micro-level perspective. Understanding micro-processes between actors on a local level is essential in order to being able to safeguard and multiply the construction of resilience within sustainable transformation on a broader, international level thus addressing “wicked” problems such as sustainability (Barnett et al., 2018, p. 121).


  • Austin, J. E., & Seitanidi, M. M. (2012). Collaborative Value Creation: A Review of Partnering Between Nonprofits and Businesses: Part I. Value Creation Spectrum and Collaboration Stages. Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly, 41(5), 726-758.
  • Barnett, M. L., Henriques, I., & Husted, B. W. (2018). Governing the Void between Stakeholder Management and Sustainability. In (Vol. 38, pp. 121-143). Emerald Publishing Limited.
  • Clarke, A., & Crane, A. (2018). Cross-Sector Partnerships for Systemic Change: Systematized Literature Review and Agenda for Further Research. Journal of Business Ethics, 150(2), 303-313.
  • Clarke, A., & MacDonald, A. (2019). Outcomes to Partners in Multi-Stakeholder Cross-Sector Partnerships: A Resource-Based View. Business & society, 58(2), 298-332.
  • Dentoni, D., Pinkse, J., & Lubberink, R. (2021). Linking Sustainable Business Models to Socio-Ecological Resilience Through Cross-Sector Partnerships : A Complex Adaptive Systems View. Business & society, 60(5), 1216-1252.
  • Hahn, T., & Knight, E. (2021). The Ontology of Organizational Paradox: A Quantum Approach. The Academy of Management review, 46(2), 362-384.
  • Islar, M., & Busch, H. (2016). "We are not in this to save the polar bears!" - the link between community renewable energy development and ecological citizenship. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 29(3), 303-319.
  • Koschmann, M. A., Kuhn, T. R., & Pfarrer, M. D. (2012). A communicative framework of value in cross-sector partnerships [Review]. Academy of Management Review, 37(3), 332-354.
  • Pedersen, E. R. G., Lüdeke-Freund, F., Henriques, I., & Seitanidi, M. M. (2021). Toward Collaborative Cross-Sector Business Models for Sustainability. Business & society, 60(5), 1039-1058.
  • Selsky, J. W., & Parker, B. (2005). Cross-Sector Partnerships to Address Social Issues: Challenges to Theory and Practice. Journal of management, 31(6), 849-873.
  • Slawinski, N., & Bansal, P. (2012). A Matter of Time: The Temporal Perspectives of Organizational Responses to Climate Change. Organization Studies, 33(11), 1537-1563.
  • Slawinski, N., & Bansal, P. (2015). Short on Time: Intertemporal Tensions in Business Sustainability. Organization Science, 26(2), 531-549.
  • Van der Byl, C. A., & Slawinski, N. (2015). Embracing Tensions in Corporate Sustainability. Organization & Environment, 28(1), 54-79.
  • Waddock, S. A. (1989). Understanding social partnerships : an evolutionary model of partnership organizations. Administration & society.
  • Walker, G., Hunter, S., Devine-Wright, P., Evans, B., & Fay, H. (2007). Harnessing Community Energies: Explaining and Evaluating Community-Based Localism in Renewable Energy Policy in the UK. Global environmental politics, 7(2), 64-82. (Global Environmental Politics)

Everyone is welcome!