Early years

SCANCOR Board 1989. Photo: J. A. Glenn, Jr.

In 1968-69, two young scholars from Scandinavia, Johan P. Olsen from the University of Bergen and Søren Christensen from the Copenhagen Business School, visited James G. March at the University of California, Irvine because of their interest in organization theory. Not long after their one-year visit, Jim March moved to Stanford University. But before taking up residence at Stanford in 1971,he arranged to spend six months in Bergen and six months in Copenhagen. This exchange marked the beginning of a lasting interest in organization theory among a large number of Nordic scholars.  Accordingly, several conferences and workshops were organized throughout the 1970s, and organization theories were spread to all corners of the Nordic countries.

March invited many young researchers to Stanford as visiting scholars. Olsen and Christensen continued to visit, and from the early 1980s also Guje Sevón from the Swedish School of Economics in Helsinki, and Nils Brunsson from the Stockholm School of Economics, came to California on an almost annual basis. 

Soon the idea began to establish an organization that would allow for a continuing flow of visitors and a more efficient administration to serve them.  In 1988 a charter for a formal consortium was launched, and on 10 March 1989 the Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research -- SCANCOR -- cut the ribbon on a physical home within Stanford's School of Education.

Into the future

Conference at Asilomar 2012. Photo: A. Eldredge

Walter W. Powell served as Director from 1999-2010, strengthening SCANCOR’s position within the Stanford academic community, organizing an annual PhD workshop with US faculty for students abroad, and developing the SCANCOR Monday seminar series, the postdoctoral program, and conferences that brought together researchers from Europe and North America. Recent events have focused on topics of corporate governance, institutional change, the knowledge society, and distributed innovation.

In 2010 Mitchell Stevens assumed the Directorship.  His first task was to reaffirm the collaboration between SCANCOR and Stanford’s Graduate School of Education by shepherding the construction of a new home for SCANCOR in the lobby level of CERAS.  The Board commissioned San Francisco architecture firm MKThink to design a facility that eloquently recognizes the harmony of Scandinavian and North American modernism. The offices are a hub for SCANCOR visitors, who continue to work and study all over the Stanford campus. In 2015, Sarah Soule from the Graduate School of Business joined Mitchell as co-director.

In January 2018, Francisco (Chiqui) Ramirez succeeded Mitchell Stevens and Sarah Soule following the conclusion of their appointments at the end of 2017. SCANCOR will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2018.

SCANCOR has played a part in the production of countless books, special issues of journals, articles and dissertations. It continues to be a bridge between Nordic and North American styles, facilitating an ongoing co-evolution in organizational social science in different but increasingly interconnected parts of the world.  Now well into its third decade, the organization stands as an exemplar of productive transnational scholarly collaboration, and it remains an intellectually flexible place.  As Jim March said in 1989, SCANCOR is “a state of mind more than an institution, a mélange of spirits more than a clear vision."

SCANCOR at the Weatherhead Center

In the fall of 2016, the organization launched the SCANCOR at the Weatherhead Center Harvard, under the leadership of Frank Dobbin. The partnership facilitates scholarly residencies within Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, located near the heart of Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

SCANCOR at the Weatherhead Center is intended specifically to encourage scholarship on the role of business organizations in global governance systems.  The boundaries of corporations, NGOs, and nation-states continue to blur as these sectors overlap and interweave and the institutional orders of states and markets co-evolve. SCANCOR at the Weatherhead Center will enable fluid exchange among a wide plurality of social scientists investigating this broad domain.

Founding institutions

from Denmark

  • Copenhagen Business School

from Finland

  • Swedish School of Economics, Hanken (Helsinki)
  • Helsinki School of Economics

from Norway

  • Norwegian School of Economics 
  • University of Bergen 
  • The Norwegian Research Centre in Organization and Management 

from Sweden

  • The Stockholm School of Economics