Program & Special events


Societies today face a number of formidable challenges, many of them global in scope. These challenges range from environmental climate change, pollution and ecosystem destruction, to the dramatic upsurge in socially divisive forces such as populism, demagogy, nationalism and extreme political polarization.

The scale, complexity and intractability of these pressing challenges are such that no one entity, discipline or social sector alone can handle, let alone, solve them. They require working across disciplinary boundaries to solve technical problems, and engaging in political action to resolve social ones. They cut across jurisdictional boundaries, entailing multiple criteria of worth. They usher in emergent and nonlinear dynamics, often confronting organizations with extreme uncertainty. Not surprisingly, whether social or environmental in nature, these challenges persist in the face of collective mobilization efforts, technological advances and economic progress.

For social scientists, these thorny societal problems offer extraordinary opportunities to explore new ideas, relationships and logics of organizing while also having a positive social impact. They also present opportunities to engage with unorthodox methodologies that are often needed to tackle complex causal interdependences that cut across social, technical, political as well as disciplinary boundaries.

The purpose of “The 2018 Medici Summer School” is to bring together leading researchers who share a concern for advancing our knowledge on the role of organizations as both vehicles and settings for social change. In particular, our goal is to discuss cutting-edge organizational research that sheds new light on theoretical mechanisms, processes as well as methodological approaches that can enhance our understanding of how complex societal problems can be addressed. This theme choice reflects a sense of excitement across new institutions, initiatives and scholarly efforts that in the last few years have arisen to foster collaborative science and advocacy around these grand societal challenges; but this choice is also aimed at raising awareness that doing science and publishing academic papers is not enough. It is increasingly necessary, in fact, to activate new forms of dialogue and collaboration that transcend narrow academic specialties, and bridge between academia, industry, the policy community and society in general.

Keeping in mind that complex “wicked” social problems are likely to demand novel solutions and unconventional approaches involving a variety of actors, we will discuss research from different disciplines at multiple levels of analysis. Some of the topics and questions that will be discussed include (but are not limited to) the following:

• What is the role of organizations in driving positive social change?
• What types of organizational efforts are more suited to tackle multidimensional, complex, and interlinked societal challenges?
• Where do societal disparities come from?
• What generative mechanisms underlie the reproduction of discriminatory behavior across societies?
• How do activists target, shape and address societal challenges?
• How can moral frames promote or inhibit the ability of occupational members to addressunsolved problems of importance to human, ecological, and societal well-being?
• What is the logic underlying the “politics of authenticity” that has powered recent populist movements?
• Under what conditions can policy and science more productively interact to tackle pressing societal challenges?
• What is the role of social movements in altering societal conditions and creating new forms of organizing?
• What are the processes behind mobilizing attention, resources, and action for change at andacross different levels of analysis?

Overall, the goal of the 2018 edition of the Medici Summer School is to shed light on the role of organizations as vehicles and settings for social change. The 2018 Medici Summer School is to equip students with theoretical and methodological tools that will enable them to untangle a complex theoretical landscape, define the key questions, identify open puzzles, and delineate the central ideas for a future agenda devoted to understanding the organizational bases of societal transformation. To this end, the 2018 Medici Summer School brings together interdisciplinary scholarship at multiple levels of analysis to enlighten the repertoire of solutions to societal problems that exist within and among organizations. By learning from different theoretical and empirical approaches, we believe attendees will substantially enrich their particular research agendas within the broad topic of organizations and large-scale change.