Teaching alternative forms of work and organization – Audebrand/Camus/Michaux (2017): A Mosquito in the Classroom

[reblogged from Kritische Organisationsforschung]

To learn and to teach something about alternative forms of work and organization is one of the urgent tasks of critical management and organization studies. However, one of the most striking problems in teaching alternatives is the lack of imagination, that is the idea that these are real and possible alternatives. As Gibson-Graham (2006: XV) write about their own experiences: „In the face of a new discourse of the diverse economy, participants in our projects can easily recognize the activities and enterprises it names, but they cannot readily identify with the alternative subject positions it avails. Most of them get up in the morning wanting a job – and if not wanting one, feeling they need one – rather than an alternative economy”.

One idea to cope with this problem seems to reframe it or to tackle it in a roundabout way. Luc Audebrand and colleagues introduce cooperatives into the classroom via the topic and reflection of paradoxes in organizations. They argue that “despite the absence of the cooperative business model in mainstream management textbooks and curricula, this model can offer a high pedagogical value for management education in that it can foster paradoxical thinking” (Audebrand et al. 2017: 216).

Said this, we can think about several other topics which makes it possible to introduce alternatives. Just think about power, participation, democracy or sustainability and maybe then alternatives are just around the corner or at least are worth to talk about it in the classroom.


Audebrand, Luc K., Annie Camus, und Valérie Michaud. 2017. A Mosquito in the Classroom: Using the Cooperative Business Model to Foster Paradoxical Thinking in Management Education. Journal of Management Education 41 (2): 216–248. doi: 10.1177/1052562916682552. [http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1052562916682552]

Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2006. The end of capitalism (as we knew it). A feminist critique of political economy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Filme über Commons / Gemeingüter

[Reblogged from ‘Kritische Organisationsforschung’]

Von Silke Helfrich und der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung sind inzwischen zwei umfangreiche Bände zur Thematik der Commons / Gemeingüter erschienen. Beide Bände stehen unter einer Creative Commons Lizenz:

Helfrich, Silke; Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Hg.) (2012): Commons. Für eine neue Politik jenseits von Markt und Staat. Bielefeld: transcript. http://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-2835-7/commons)

Helfrich, Silke; Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Hg.) (2015): Die Welt der Commons. Muster gemeinsamen Handelns. Bielefeld: transcript. http://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-3245-3/die-welt-der-commons

Im zweiten Band findet sich eine instruktive Aufzählung von Filmen über die Commons, welche auch in der Lehre eingesetzt werden können und die Frage nach alternativen Arbeits- und Organisationsformen am Beispiel der Commons konkretisieren helfen. Hier der entsprechende Auszug sowie Verlinkungen:

»Gemeingüter? Was ist das?«
Ein dreiminütiges Erklärstück, das 2010 im Auftrag der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung für eine internationale Commons-Konferenz in Berlin erstellt wurde und bisher auch in Englisch, Französisch, Spanisch und Italienisch zur Verfügung steht; gut einsetzbar für Einführungen ins Thema:

»This Land is Our Land. The Fight to Reclaim the Commons«
Der englischsprachige Dokumentarfilm, ebenfalls aus dem Jahr 2010, wurde von Jeremy Earp und Sut Jhally produziert. Das Skript stammt von David Bollier (Mitherausgeber dieses Bandes) und Jeremy Earp; Länge: 46 Minuten. Schwerpunkte sind die Einhegungsprozesse der letzten Jahrzehnte. Die Commons-Bewegung wird hier in den Kontext traditionellen Community-Engagements gestellt und zugleich als beginnende internationale Bewegung skizziert:


»Commons in Action«
Die Wissenschaftsvereinigung International Association for the Study of Commons
(IASC) produziert seit 2013 eine Serie von englischsprachigen Kurzfilmanimationen,
»Commons in Action«, unter dem Motto: »Commons sind heute Realität«. Hier zu sehen:

Sie führen kurz und knapp in einige zentrale Konzepte ein und stellen
internationale Projekte vor, meist Preisträger der IASC. Nützlich und gut drei
Minuten lang ist auch die Einführung in den Begriff:

»The Commons. Beyond the State, Capitalism and the Market«
Dieses 36-minütige, englischsprachige Video, in dem auch eine geistesgeschichtliche
Einordnung, beispielsweise über Eigentumskonzepte, vorgenommen wird, veröffentlichte das links-libertäre Anarchist Collective im Jahr 2013. Nicht nur zentrale Begriffe wie Einhegungen, Resilienz oder Fülle werden erläutert, sondern auch die Desig-Prinzipien für langlebige Commons-Institutionen von Elinor Ostrom et al. Hier zu sehen:

und hier nachzulesen:


»The Promise of the Commons«
»Das Versprechen der Commons« wurde im Jahr 2014 von John D. Liu sowie der indischen Nichtregierungsorganisation Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) produziert. Besondere Aufmerksamkeit kommt der Umweltsituation im globalen Süden zu. Auf Youtube finden sich verschiedene Ausschnitte aus diesem insgesamt 50-minütigen Beitrag in englischer Sprache:

»Better No More. Principles and Practices towards the next Economy«
Dieses 5-minütige Video in englischer Sprache ist eine Produktion von Kontent
Film, USA, sowie der Edge Funders Alliance, einem internationalen Zusammenschluss
kritischer Stiftungen und Geberorganisationen. Der Film entstand 2015
und konzentriert sich auf vier Aspekte der Commons: Natur entkommerzialisieren,
Arbeit neu denken, Wissen befreien, Wohlstand demokratisieren.


»The Commons«
Fünf Jahre hat der Filmemacher Kevin Hansen an diesem Dokumentarfilm gearbeitet.
Entstanden ist ein Film über Gemeinschaften aus aller Welt, die nach alten Commons-Prinzipien wirtschaften. 49 Gemeinschaften in Nord- und Südamerika, Asien und Europa wurden interviewt. Sie erklären, wie sie Commons über Jahrhunderte lebendig halten. »Commons«, so Hansen, »sind ein alt-neuer Open-Source-Code rund ums Teilen von Ressourcen«. Die Website zum Film:

What it means to work in a manager or a worker position – A little simulation game

Is it possible that students gain some experience about work and organisations while being in the classroom? Well, referring to the discussion on experience-based learning, it is in fact possible. I try to enable students to make some experiences about the meaning of being a worker and/or a manager by doing a little simulation game. I found this exercise in Stephen P. Robbins, Timothy Campbell & Timothy A. Judge (2010) Organizational Behavior (1st edition, European Edition), Financial Times/ Prentice Hall. They adapted it from Lee Bolman and Terrence E. Deal (1979) ’A Simple – But Powerful – Power Simulation’, EXCHANGE: THE ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR TEACHING JOURNAL, pp. 38-41.

This little simulation game was originally designed to let students experience power in organisations. I, however, use it a bit differently. I do this game after I introduced students to research on the meaning that work has for employees (one session on the look from beyond) and to research about what managers actually do (one session on the look from above). With the game I attempt to offer them an opportunity to experience some of the aspects that I addressed in these sessions.

The students are allocated to one of three groups (top group, middle group, lower group). The top group has the overall responsibility for the effectiveness of the organisation. The lower group manufactures the products of the organisation, that is slogans to promote the management profession (although, I am very creative with regards to the profession, for which the slogans should be, depending on the study programs the students take). Each member of the middle group is responsible for one team of the lower group and for communicating both downwards and upwards. I play the customer, negotiating terms and conditions with the top group, which is then supposed to ensure that both the agreed quantity and quality is delivered on the stipulated deadline.

I am not only playing the customer, though, but also observe what is going on and from time to time add a bit of social dynamic to the play. For example, after a while I ask the members of the lower group whether they have received any payment (the top group has sweets at their disposal in order to pay staff) or to what extent they expect to receive one. I also prompt them to think about breaks (the simulation, easily runs for more than one hour). Beginning to consider payment and breaks, along with other working conditions, the lower group usually formulates demands towards their direct supervisor from the middle group. Subsequently, the middle group brings this aspect to the table of the top group, what sometimes creates some confusion…

Even though the direction that the play takes very much depend on the group of students, I observed that in every case, they ‘tasted’ what it might mean to work in a management or worker role. The top group, for instance, usually tell that they feel the burden of being responsible for both the organisation, yet, also satisfying the need of the customer. This often results is stress and a focus on economical aspects; sometime neglecting the people. They also learn that the classical function of managing, i.e. planning, organising, motivating, controlling and co-ordinating, do not really match their experiences. What they experience comes much closer to Mintzberg’s (1989) observations of what managers do. The lower group usually experiences quite a bit of pressure to perform well and to deliver the expected amount of slogans. Although they all agree that developing slogans is creative work, hardly anyone of them would go for such a job. This group also experienced the constraints that are set by the organisation and the behaviour of the groups above them. The middle group rather often experiences to be in-between, receiving pressure from the top and the lower-group. Coping with this pressure often proves to be difficult and they  feel a uncomfortable.

Overall I believe that this little simulation in fact enables students to experience what it means to engage in paid work under the constrains of an organisation that is hierarchically structured.


A classroom exercise: “How to think like a neoliberal…”

Kean Birch reflects on a classroom exercise introducing students to the reach of market-driven actions in everyday life. He finds the exercise is also helpful for his own engagement with an intellectual tradition with which he disagrees. According to Hayek, Friedman and Becker, every decision and choice can be conceived as a market decision. But in the process of negotiating and renegotiating every action in life, we end up entangled in an impossibly complex arrangement.

Most years I teach a course on neoliberalism. I end the first class with a game in which I auction off the course grades to the students. First, I offer A-grades to the top 20% of bidders, B-grades to the next 20%, C-grades to the next 40%, and fails to the bottom 20%. Then I split the auction into two rounds to provide students with some chance to spread their bets. For each round I ask them to write down, secretly, their bids. Finally, I reveal the winners and losers. There is one proviso to all this, however, students can only use the cold, hard cash they have in their pockets to make their bids. Of course, I don’t actually sell students their grades, but rather use this mock auction as a way to show how markets can – and often do – work, even in unusual circumstances.My aim, in getting students to bid for their grades, is to show how we can create markets for everything and anything in life; for education, for work, for relationships, for crime, etc., etc., etc. We can, literally, find ways to sell anything, if only we think hard enough about it – and we have to remember many people are thinking hard about just these sorts of things.” Source: Impact of Social Sciences – How to think like a neoliberal: Can every decision and choice really be conceived as a market decision?

The article was originally posted here: http://discoversociety.org/2015/07/01/how-to-think-like-a-neoliberal/. The discussion on the post is also very interesting. One of the comments says: “Get you econ 101 straight and then write about markets.”

I think, this interesting classroom exercise could be also be modified: We could simulate to auction off the enrollment to classes. Question: Wouldn’t such a bidding process guarantee an efficient allocation of scarce resources?  Why (not)?

(Picture; description and source: Friedrich August von Hayek, Professor of Economic Science at LSE, 27th January 1981, see also here.)