SCANCOR/Weatherhead Partnership in International Organizational Studies Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University

Announcing the establishment of a partnership within Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs focusing on the use of organizational theory, and methods, in  international, comparative, global and transnational social science research. The project explores the role of corporations, and other formal organizations, in the creation of international social, environmental, economic, and political conventions and norms.  

The core of the partnership is a visiting scholars program at the Weatherhead Center that brings faculty visitors working on international topics using the tools of organizational science. 

In recent years, the boundaries of the state have changed dramatically around the world, with the privatization of all types of state activities, from transport services to pension provision to education. Corporations and non-profits have both expanded and adapted their operations and relationships with state entities as part of this dynamic. For example, multinational firms and global corporate networks have done more and more to define civil rights, environmental norms, labor practices, and economic ideals globally.

There also has been dramatic change in the structure of the corporation, with transnational outsourcing of activities ranging from production to software development to legal services. Some describe the atomization of the corporation, as the headquarters of multinational firms - often in the Global North - direct commodity chains through contracts that extend around the world, and especially in the Global South. The fixed boundaries of corporations, non-profits, and nation-states that characterized the global post-war ontology have given way to fuzziness and flux. Corporations themselves have become alternatively monolithic, as in the case of global auto manufacturing, and atomized through contracting and outsourcing, as in the case of global footwear production. Meanwhile states, investors, and NGO regulators have been establishing global standards for corporations, in arenas ranging from work conditions to accounting rules. 

The proliferation of multinational corporations, transnational corporate networks, and other non-state organizations in recent decades has complicated the field of international affairs. The relations across corporations, NGOs, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), and their relations with governments, have become increasingly important to the development of norms and soft law. Thus, for instance, the national units of corporations and NGOs interact across borders to respond to economic and human-rights crises, develop new technologies and management practices, negotiate terms of international exchange, and monitor labor rights. The activities of multinational corporations, transnational corporate networks, and INGOs often define global norms and shape public policies.  

The SCANCOR/Weatherhead Partnership will connect visitors with scholars and graduate students from across the Harvard campus in workshops and conferences on transnational relations among corporations and other non-state actors. It will bring a small number of scholars at a time to work at Harvard on international projects based in organizational scholarship for periods ranging from one semester to one year. The project will jointly provide office space, basic administrative services, and a formal identity to visitors within Harvard. Visitors will be supported by their own sabbatical funds, research grants, and leave fellowships.

We expect visitors to undertake a wide range of projects: studies of the role of corporations in producing new business norms in areas such as civil rights and the environment; studies of how new public policy ideas spread through multinationals; studies of how social movements change corporate behavior around the world; research on the creation of soft law and regulations between corporations, NGOs, INGOs, and IGOs; research on how non-governmental organizations and corporations shape national regulations and political systems; studies of how corporate management norms shape public sector organizations. 

The Partnership is intended to bring an organizational, and frequently corporate, lens to the study of international norms and conventions. We expect many visitors to undertake truly global projects using the tools of organizational social science.  

In addition to providing space and resources to visitors the initiative will sponsor speakers and conferences on topics of interest to both SCANCOR/Weatherhead visitors and Weatherhead’s Harvard affiliates. The initiative will cosponsor activities with Weatherhead programs, such as the Canada Program and the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations. Visitors also will participate in events and seminars organized by Weatherhead programs, as well as the several organizational research symposia throughout the Boston metropolitan area, such as the MIT-Harvard Economic Sociology Seminar. 

Visitors will be selected through an application process that will be held twice yearly.

The next application deadline is November 1, for arrival for the fall 2017 semester. 

You can find more information about the application process here.