Call for papers: (Re)Thinking Innovation and Organizations to Tackle Grand Challenges: Theories, Practices, and Approaches toward Shared Values


(Re)Thinking Innovation and Organizations to Tackle Grand Challenges: Theories, Practices, and Approaches toward Shared Values


Maria Chiara Di Guardo, University of Cagliari 

Elona Marku, University of Cagliari  

Maryia Zaitsava, University of Cagliari

David Bryde, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool Business School

Rachel Cooper, Lancaster University 

Lee Omar, CIO 


Organizations and society are increasingly struggling to tackle grand challenges related to public health, sustainability, climate change, inequality, and poverty, among others (Ferraro, Etzion, & Gehman, 2015; George, Howard-Grenville, Joshi & Tihanyi, 2016). Described as “formulations of global problems that can be plausibly addressed through coordinated and collaborative effort” (George et al., 2016, p. 1880), these societal challenges imply the existence of collaborative power among all actors, enabling the creation of shared values between businesses and societies (Dembek, Singh, & Bhakoo, 2016; Porter & Kramer, 2006; 2011). Indeed,  scholars advocate the co-creative and collaborative nature of shared values, highlighting that while “not all societal problems can be solved through shared value solutions” (Porter & Kramer, 2011, p. 17), the more aligned a grand challenge is to a core value chain, the better is for both firm and society (Menghwar & Daood, 2021). In this vein, scholars have turned their attention towards more collaborative and less top-down approaches and tools to enable ethical and impactful innovation (e.g., Gond & Brès, 2020; Carollo & Guerci, 2018; Girschik, Svystunova & Lysova, 2022). More recently, grand challenges have been conceived as “ambitious but achievable goals that harness science, technology, and innovation to solve important national or global problems and that have the potential to capture the public’s imagination” (Archives of the White House, 2021). Thus, firms and organizations need to redesign products and services to meet grand challenges or the previously overlooked society’s needs (Menghwar & Daood, 2021).

These perspectives convey the core importance of bridging grand challenges’ societal agendas and business goals to co-create shared values using novel approaches or rethinking existing ones. Aligning social and business values could trigger changes in the supply chain and reconsideration of resource use and the stakeholders’ composition (Speith, Schneider, Clauß, & Eichenberg, 2019; Wilson & Post, 2013; Porter & Kramer 2011). For instance, as shared values presuppose a collaborative approach and sharing, Speith and colleagues (2019) highlight that organizations that are committed to their beliefs would more probably find collaborators and build a community of partners sharing the same set of beliefs. With this in mind, organizations should adopt novel or previously not used approaches to bridge diverse stakeholders and develop networks built on shared values and beliefs (Breuer & Lüdeke-Freund, 2017a, 2017b). An example is a design-thinking approach that supports meaningful innovation by formulating a correct problem rather than finding a short-cut solution (Micheli, Wilner, Bhatti, Mura & Beverland, 2019) and engaging in human-centered innovation where the sociocultural context plays a crucial role (Gruber De Leon, George & Thompson, 2015). Also, co-creation practices (e.g., user-driven innovation) not only support the development of successful products but also enable their “real-world” potential (Laursen & Salter, 2006; Kohler et al., 2009; Baldwin & Hippel, 2011; Ramaswamy & Ozcan, 2018; Cassiman, Di Guardo & Valentini, 2010). These approaches being more business-oriented often do always not account for grand challenges realm and global problems. Therefore, a more in-depth understanding of theories and practices and a radical rethinking of the business system and innovation are needed to effectively respond to today’s grand challenges and enable value creation.

We invite submissions related but not limited to:

  1. How can organizations rethink the role of innovation in face of grand challenges?
  2. What theories and organizational practices can bridge social agendas and business goals?
  3. What are the tensions, constraints, and tradeoffs of the paradigm of shared value to tackle grand challenges?
  4. Under what conditions can organizations support the redesigning of products, services, or the previously overlooked needs of society in a sustainable way?
  5. How do aligning social and business values influence organizational short and long-term performance and values?
  6. What is the new role of human-centered innovation approaches, e.g., design thinking, in face of grand challenges?
  7. How can emerging technologies be translated into meaningful innovation to respond to grand challenges?
  8. What is the role of social innovation and social entrepreneurship?
  9. How can previously disadvantaged groups of people/society contribute and benefit from the innovation process and grand challenges tackling?
  10. What are practices for effective co-creation and collaboration between actors, such as private organizations, governmental institutions, universities, and civil society?


We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions that adopt diverse theoretical lenses, including studies that draw on organizational theory, strategy, entrepreneurship, and public policy. We are interested in papers that use both quantitative and qualitative approaches and encourage the submission of research that uses new methods, novel data, and spans across multiple levels of analysis to enrich the empirical research base in this field.


The special issue was inspired by the theme “Organizing for the Good Life: Between Legacy and Imagination” of the WoA (Workshop of Italian Organizational Scholars scheduled) and EGOS (European Group for Organizational Studies) that will be co-jointly held in Cagliari 6-8 July, 2023.

The guest editors of the special issue will select the most promising research papers presented at WoA 2023 to be included in the puntOorg special issue. The call addresses the attention of the WoA 2023 and EGOS participants and attendees, but it is not limited to them.



Archives of the White House 2021 “21st century grand challenges.”

Baldwin, C., & Von Hippel, E. (2011). Modeling a paradigm shift: From producer innovation to user and open collaborative innovation. Organization Science, 22(6), 1399-1417.

Breuer, H., & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2017a). Values-based network and business model innovation. International Journal of Innovation Management, 21(03), 1750028.

Breuer, H., & Lüdeke-Freund, F. (2017b). Values-based innovation management: Innovating by what we care about. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Cassiman, B., Di Guardo, M. C., & Valentini, G. (2010). Organizing links with science: Cooperate or contract?: A project-level analysis. Research Policy, 39(7), 882-892.

Carollo, L., & Guerci, M. (2018). ‘Activists in a suit’: Paradoxes and metaphors in sustainability managers’ identity work. Journal of business ethics, 148(2), 249-268.

Dembek, K., Singh, P., & Bhakoo, V. (2016). Literature review of shared value: a theoretical concept or a management buzzword?. Journal of Business Ethics, 137(2), 231-267.

Ferraro, F., Etzion, D., & Gehman, J. (2015). Tackling grand challenges pragmatically: Robust action revisited. Organization Studies, 36(3), 363-390.

George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016). Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of management journal, 59(6), 1880-1895.

Girschik, V., Svystunova, L., & Lysova, E. I. (2022). Transforming corporate social responsibilities: Toward an intellectual activist research agenda for micro-CSR research. Human relations, 75(1), 3-32.

Gond, J. P., & Brès, L. (2020). Designing the tools of the trade: How corporate social responsibility consultants and their tool-based practices created market shifts. Organization Studies, 41(5), 703-726.

Gruber, M., De Leon, N., George, G., & Thompson, P. (2015). Managing by design. Academy of management journal, 58(1), 1-7.

Kohler, T. M. (2009). Avatar-based innovation: Using virtual worlds for real-world innovation. Technovation,, 29(6-7), 395-407.

Laursen, K., & Salter, A. (2006). Open for innovation: the role of openness in explaining innovation performance among UK manufacturing firms. Strategic management journal, 27(2), 131-150.

Menghwar, P. S., & Daood, A. (2021). Creating shared value: A systematic review, synthesis and integrative perspective. International Journal of Management Reviews, 23(4), 466–485.

Micheli, P., Wilner, S. J., Bhatti, S. H., Mura, M., & Beverland, M. B. (2019). Doing design thinking: Conceptual review, synthesis, and research agenda. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 36(2), 124-148.

Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). Strategy and society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 84(12), 78–92.

Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2011). Creating Shared Value: Harvard Business Review. From the Magazine (January–February 2011).

Ramaswamy, V., & Ozcan, K. (2018). What is co-creation? An interactional creation framework and its implications for value creation. Journal of business research, 84, 196-205.

Spieth, P., Schneider, S., Clauß, T., & Eichenberg, D. (2019). Value drivers of social businesses: A business model perspective. Long Range Planning, 52(3), 427-444.

Wilson, F., & Post, J. E. (2013). Business models for people, planet (& profits): exploring the phenomena of social business, a market-based approach to social value creation. Small Business Economics, 40(3), 715-737.


Deadline for full paper submission: 1 October 2024