Alberta Institutions 2018

Past Conferences

2015 Conference: How do Institutions Matter?

June 12–14, 2015

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Sponsored by Alberta School of Business, OMT division of the Academy of Management, and SSHRC.

Read the conference program.

The 4th triennial Alberta Institutions Conference took place from June 12 to 14, 2015 at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel in Banff, Alberta. The conference, which was organized by the Alberta School of Business Strategic Management and Organization Department, brought together top scholars in the field of organization theory, institutional theory, sociology and more to present papers, participate in panels and offer mentorship to doctoral students. A total of 108 participants from 14 countries and 51 different academic institutions took in the spectacular views from the hotel and attended over 35 presentations and panels over the weekend. Sessions included topics such as entrepreneurship, institutional complexity, logics, processes, social problems and industry dynamics which all together contributed to a thorough examination of the conference theme of how institutions (and institutionalists) matter. This was the largest Alberta Institutions Conference yet.


2012 Conference: Creating, Enacting and Reacting to Institutional Logics

June 15–16, 2012

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Sponsored and co-organized by the Alberta School of Business, the Copenhagen Business School, and Harvard University (the ABC Network).

Read the conference program.

The institutional logics perspective is a vibrant and rapidly developing research area in organizational theory. Recent work has employed a wide variety of methods (qualitative and quantitative) to generate insights about the sources and consequences of logics in institutional fields as well as inside organizations. Over the past decade, research has moved beyond highlighting the effects of shifts in dominant logics, focusing more attention on understanding the implications of plural logics and how organizations respond to institutional complexity where conflicting and overlapping pressures stemming from multiple institutional logics create interpretive and strategic ambiguity for organizational leaders and participants. In addition, conceptualization of institutional logics has been concomitantly revised away from more static, top-down imagery and towards a view of logics that is more fluid and loosely coupled to actors and their identities and practices.

These developments have opened up a variety of new questions and approaches to longstanding issues related to embedded agency, organizational change, and the dynamics of institutional fields. Open questions include: where do new institutional logics come from? How does the existence of plural logics affect the cognition of individuals, groups and organizations? How do organizations react to institutional complexity? How do individuals and organizations interpret institutional logics and enact them? How do individuals and organizations deploy symbolic elements associated with institutional logics to better situate themselves in institutional fields? How do institutional logics relate to the dynamics of organizational practices and identities? And how do actors combine institutional logics?

To further develop the institutional logics perspective, it will be especially helpful to couple attention to the cultural dynamics of societies and institutional fields with penetrating insights into the cognition and behaviour of individuals and organizational actors. We are particularly interested in receiving empirical papers that use innovative qualitative and quantitative methods to track institutional logics and their relationship to individuals and organizations, and that explicitly aim to shed light on cross-level mechanisms and effects. In addition, we encourage efforts to expand our conceptualization of institutional logics by drawing upon adjacent streams of theorizing on culture, practice, identity, justification, social worlds, inhabited institutions, symbolic interactionism, and institutional work. We plan to use this event as a foundation to pursue a special issue related to the topic.


2009 Conference: Institutions, Innovation and Space

June 21–23, 2009

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The first Alberta Conference on Institutional Theory, held in June 2003, considered the ‘present and future status of institutional theory’. The second conference, to be held in June 2009, has a similarly ambitious though more focused mandate. We aim to assess our understanding of institutional innovation while provocatively exploring nascent directions. That is, the conference will:
  • take stock of one of the central lines of research over the past few years, namely, the study of how institutional dynamics are both structured by, and, in turn, shape innovation; and,
  • consider an emerging theme of research, namely the role of space as a dimension of community organization (geographic or virtual) and factor shaping institutional and innovation dynamics.

Over the past decade, the institutional analysis of organizations has increasingly shifted towards the study of institutional creation and transformation, emphasizing the role of powerful actors, such as the state and professions that act as “institutional entrepreneurs,” who reshape the social organization of fields and/or catalyze the creation of new dominant practices. Much attention has been paid to identifying these actors, their strategies—especially linguistic strategies—and the circumstances under which they are successful. In contrast, more recent work has shifted away from such instrumental actor- centered approaches that valorize “hero” entrepreneurs, in order to give appreciation to more complex, emergent, and accidental multi-level processes of institutional innovation. This latter research gives primacy not to heroic actors, but to structural forces, such as contradictory or ambiguous logics, and to processes of social construction. Given the rush of theorizing and empirical work on institutional innovation, the time is right for taking stock.

A complementary but less developed trajectory of research gives attention to the role of communities, both geographically bounded and virtual, in shaping the production of innovations and institutional change. Most research using the institutional perspective assumes the organizational field as the level of analysis. Fields are typically defined either around issues or, more commonly, a core industry. However, there has been a rediscovery of communities as arenas where institutional processes occur. These communities may be spatially bounded. The relationship between fields and communities is not yet clearly understood and deserves consideration. Thus, the conference will seek to enrich current conversations on institutions and innovation by highlighting recent thinking on issues such as the geographical rootedness of logics, virtual arenas as incubators of institutional innovation, and practices in the context of work on globalization, social movements, and community.


2006 Conference: The Present and Future Status of Institutional Theory

June 2–3, 2006

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The Department of Strategic Management and Organization, School of Business, University of Alberta is hosting a 2-day meeting on whether institutional theory is likely to continue serving as a useful way of understanding future circumstances. Or, is it past it’s ‘sell by’ date? There is no doubt that institutional theory is one of the most widely used theoretical perspectives since it was developed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

It is approaching two decades since Scott (1987) reported ‘considerable variation in the types of concepts and arguments employed’ within institutional accounts of organizations and declared the theory as in its ‘adolescence’. Papers are invited that deal with any aspect of two fundamental questions: (a) to what extent has institutional theory matured into a coherent body of scholarship? And (b) what is its likely future relevance? The first question will take stock of institutional theory dealing with its development in the past several decades and assessing its current coherence. Does what we have produced add up to a coherent and informative interpretation of organizational behaviour? What insights has it provided? What questions does it address well? Which questions are ignored or poorly addressed? Taking stock, however, is more than retrospection. We need to consider future relevance. How far will institutional theory and/or the institutionalist perspective continue to provide important means of making sense of events in future decades?

These questions are dealt with in two different ways. The first way is through the involvement in the workshop of invited participants, namely, Renate Meyer, Christine Oliver, Woody Powell, Huggy Rao, Dick Scott, and Lynn Zucker.

The second way is through the various papers that will be presented. This call emphasizes the need for debate, especially between the ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ of institutional theory. For some, the idea that institutional theory might have reached its ‘expiration date’ is premature. The theory is seen as robust, with an array of issues and problems around levels of analysis (social systems, organizational fields, organizations and intra-organizational units), change and innovation (institutional entrepreneurs) and the role of actors, all of which are central to our understanding of organizations, and, for all of which, institutional theory has concepts and theories to develop them further.

For others there may be a more cautious view. They will argue that institutional theory has become too broad and has lost its distinctive focus. It has also tended to become somewhat insular and thus ‘impoverished’. The argument is that institutional theory should not new issues, such as social movement theory, power, and contingent rationality, but restrict itself to its original and seminal focus. Institutional theory has become so broad and encompassing that it risks the danger of losing sight of its core contributions. Thus, the future of the theory is in disappearing as it become indistinguishable from the generality of approaches to understanding organizations in the 21st century.


2002 Conference: Professional Service Firms

August 15 – 17, 2002

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The fourth Biennial Conference on Professional Service Firms will be held at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, from the evening of August 15, 2002 to noon on August 17, 2002. The organizers are David Cooper, Royston Greenwood, and Bob Hinings.

Professional service firms – such as accounting, law, management consulting, financial institutions, advertising, architecture and engineering – constitute a significant and fast growing sector of the modern economy. The purpose of this conference is to encourage research into the management and role of these firms.