Business can create positive change, and the research of Gustavson School of Business professors and students can help.

Ideas from the Edge

We’ve launched a series of short, plain-language research summaries to help businesses, not-for-profits, individuals and groups:

And the Winter 2018 edition of Business Class magazine has:

We hope you find these one- to two-page articles interesting - and useful.

Who’s doing what:

Dr. Monika Winn: transforming organizations

Monika Winn, director

“I believe we need a transformative change in the way management scholars do research,” says Monika Winn, professor of Business Strategy and Sustainability. “How nature functions should inform Management and Organization Studies.”

The focus of Winn’s recent work is to help her colleagues shift from accepting that idea to acting on it, by supplying a scaffold that will help them structure their research. The framework she’s proposing views the world as Social-Ecological Systems, which acknowledge the complex interconnectedness of nature and human activity and offers a way for academics and practitioners to take their work to new levels.

Dr. Matt Murphy: human rights and collaboration

Matt Murphy

Dr. Matthew Murphy looks at how businesses and communities – especially Indigenous communities – interact.

“My goal is to help businesses improve their human rights performance, and to help Indigenous communities protect those rights and develop their own economies,” he says.

To meet that goal, Dr. Murphy researches business and the management of cross-sector relationships. He looks at companies that work with partners from other sectors, and those that are trying to settle conflicts with communities or improve social justice. Often, this research leads him to focus on the relationships between Indigenous communities and mining companies.

Right now he’s developing processes and tools with the Toquaht First Nation on Vancouver Island to assess the socio-cultural fit of prospective economic development projects. In Peru, he’s developing frameworks that assist mining firms and Indigenous/campesino communities to work together more productively. And with Value Added in Africa, he’s helping entrepreneurs build their businesses beyond Fair Trade.

Dr. Simon Pek: embedding positive change Simon Pek

Dr. Simon Pek explores how organizations and the individuals within them embed social and environmental sustainability into their cultures, strategies, and daily operations. Specifically, he looks at the microprocesses of sustainability-oriented cultural change, new approaches to organizational democracy, and sustainability-related issues in the domain of international business.

Through his research, Pek hopes to equip people to drive positive change within organizations, including novel ways in which institutions can practice democracy.

He also co-founded and serves as a member of the board of directors of Democracy In Practice, a non-profit dedicated to democratic experimentation, innovation, and capacity-building.

Dr. Viviana Pilato: CSR in developing countries Viviana Pilato

Dr. Viviana Pilato researches on the institutionalization of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in corporations and the variations of CSR across institutional contexts, exploring how corporations respond to institutional complexity. Specifically, she examines how CSR is deployed in developing countries, with a particular focus on Africa. She looks at cases in Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

Through her research, Pilato hopes to contribute to CSR and international business domain, exploring CSR in developing countries as an emerging field of study. 

Dr. Camille Meyer: economic activity and shared values meyer pdf

Dr. Camille Meyer explores how communities and networks collectively organize to set up complementary currencies and community banks, particularly in Brazil.

This work sheds light on the social and institutional components enabling the creation of commons - that is, collective ways of organizing resources and economic activities according to shared values and ethical principles. His research employs organization theory, business ethics and economic sociology to investigate social enterprises and sustainability issues.

Dr. Enrico Fontana: social navigation of CSR


Dr. Enrico Fontana’s research lies within the organizational domain and takes an interdisciplinary approach to study the role of business in society. While considering the indigenous meaning associated with executing corporate social responsibility (CSR) in various contexts, his projects aim to shine a spotlight into how local organizational players socially navigate embedded institutional arrangements to do (or not to do) CSR. In so doing, his research applies different levels of analysis, which span from the micro to the macro dimension.

From an empirical standpoint, Fontana is predominantly interested in labor-oriented issues in developing countries (e.g. female workers’ rights), such as in the Bangladeshi apparel supply chain. Consequently, his research connects with sustainable development goals 1 (no poverty), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 12 (responsible consumption and production).