From movement intellectuals to network brokers

Passion Blog Pro Review

Entrepreneurship Guides

Get Instant Access

In terms of social agency the making of green commerce can be seen as representing a shift within the emerging ecological culture from a voluntary array of "movement intellectuals" to more professionalized and institutionally circumscribed forms of brokerage. Social network analysts use the concept of brokerage to characterize the kinds of things that networkers do: linking different actors together in common projects, promoting technical and social innovations, transferring ideas and inventions from one social sphere to another. Like the buying and selling that takes place on the stock market, or the fixing and negotiating of investments and loans, brokerage involves acquisition. In the world of green business the acquisition need not be purely monetary, but it tends to be directed to acquiring shares of a market, be it an academic, economic, or symbolic market. In the shift from activism to brokerage an entrepreneurial value system has been "imported" into the environmental movement, thus colonizing the ecological culture with a commercial mentality or mindset.

In the research project on Public Engagement and Science and Technology Policy Options (PESTO), my colleagues and I identified four main types of brokerage that had been especially prominent in the quest for sustainable development in Europe in recent years (see Jamison 1999). Visiting a wide range of companies that had instituted environmental management systems and cleaner technology programs, and a variety of university departments and governmental agencies that had conducted research in environmental science and technology, the emergence of an entrepreneurial "ethic" was quite noticeable. New kinds of professional roles and, with them, new kinds of skills and competences were crucial for the implementation of the various activities.

The kinds of skill and knowledge that are valuable in most of these undertakings and types of brokerage are strikingly different from those that come into play in "movement" settings. The organizational competence that is intrinsic to network-building tends to be operational, while the movement intellectual tends to be more inspirational, even charismatic, in his or her way of functioning. Making a network like GIN is a matter of fund-raising, public relations, negotiating, and enroling other people into one's particular organizational concept. A movement intellectual is more an articulator of a not-yet-formulated vision (Eyerman and Jamison 1991). Rather than possessing organizational skills, the movement intellectual has what might be termed "synthetic skills," fusing disparate knowledge forms into new combinations. Both are "hybrids," or trans-disciplinary, but their motivations and criteria for success tend to be somewhat different.

The translator type of brokerage that is performed in networks is also different from what might be called the "interpreting" that goes on in movements (Bauman 1987). Translators usually have a particular, often highly specialized, technical competence which they transfer from one type of organization to another (from universities to businesses, from non-governmental organizations to governmental agencies, etc.). A translator broker is a kind of transfer agent, much like the "social carriers of techniques" that have been identified in relation to international transfer of technology projects (Edqvist and Edquist 1980). Donald Huisingh, for example, has been a tireless proponent of pollution prevention and cleaner production for some fifteen years now, and has carried the concept from North America to Europe where he has established networks and educational programs, as well as projects at companies in a number of different countries.

In movements interpretation tends to be a far more flexible or general kind of activity, and the competence that is required is that of the popularizing intellectual generalist - a Barry Commoner or a Ralph Nader, for example - for getting the message out to a broad audience and mobilizing the participation of voluntary activists. Interpretation involves making an issue relevant to different kinds of "publics," reframing or appropriating a concept or approach into other contexts. Intellectuals in the anti-nuclear movement, for instance, devised ways to relate the issue of nuclear power to a range of different life-worlds in order to mobilize a mass movement of activists. Translator brokers have much more specific "clients" and more circumscribed audiences for their intellectual activity.

Project-making is also somewhat different in the realms of movements and networks. There is some similarity as both movements and networks need to be managed and planned and implemented effectively, but there is a world of difference in managing paid employees and coordinating the efforts of volunteers. Skills and competences that are required are also different, as a movement intellectual attempts to coordinate different kinds of "lay" knowledge or local knowledges, while the professional project-maker needs to manage and combine more formalized types of competence.

Finally, the entrepreneurship that is to be found in a non-governmental organization like Natural Step, or an academic institution such as the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics in Lund, Sweden, is very distant from the "resource mobilization" that is carried out by movement intellectuals. Where one accepts the rules of the game in order to win influence and contracts, the other is constantly breaking the rules or, at least, is trying to establish a different set of rules. Entrepreneurship involves developing and then selling a concept or approach to paying clients, whether they be companies looking for advice or students looking for career opportunities. The movement intellectual takes part in what Ivan Illich in the 1970s called "conviviality" - sharing experiences and knowledge in a friendly, altruistic manner: the idea is to share one's knowledge and apply it to a collective task (Illich 1973). The entrepreneurial broker, on the other hand, is, to all intents and purposes, a salesman. The Natural Step, for instance, which was started by the Swedish medical doctor Karl-Henrik Robert in the late 1980s, and has since expanded to the United States and Britain, operates much like a consulting firm, and its success is measured in terms of how many companies are willing to pay for its services (Nattrass and Altomare 1999). It is also worth noting that Robert's "product" is not based primarily on scientific research - the Natural Step is not a scientific finding, but is rather more like a commercial organizational innovation. The procedures that are sold to clients are applications, or operationalizations, of scientific concepts into marketable commodities. The institute in Lund is also in a kind of business, namely that of selling an instrumental training, and, with it, a particular approach to environmental management and sustainable development. The graduates of the institute are often referred to in Sweden - both by institute officials and the media - as "missionaries" for the concept of cleaner production, rather than activists participating in an egalitarian and voluntary movement.

In terms of intellectual roles as well as specific forms of knowledge-making, there is a clear difference between what goes on in voluntary social movements and in the more professional, business-oriented networks. Movements and their intellectuals tend to play a primarily educative function in society, articulating new problem areas and envisioning new kinds of cultural values. Intellectuals of the environmental movements in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands in the period of activism and public mobilization in the 1970s were, among other things, popular educators, grass-roots engineers, critical scientists, and utopian theorists (Jamison et al. 1990). They took part in an open public space of "critical discourse" or dialogic communication, whereas the new kinds of network broker operate in more limited arenas. While movement intellectuals attain the status of intellectuals within the movement, often developing their skills and knowledge as part of a collective learning process, brokers attain their status on the basis of the intellectual capital that they have acquired outside of the networks in which they operate. In movements, the individual is shaped by the social, or collective, identity in formation; in networks individuals construct together an operational, or instrumental form of interaction, or identity, in order to fulfill individual interests.

In relation to knowledge-making, the transition from movement to network has led to a shift from collective creativity to corporate learning. As a result, for many people a concern with protecting the environment has been both privatized and commercialized, and integrated into corporate strategy and marketing. It is the subsequent mixing of motivations that is most problematic, as companies combine what are two rather different behavioral motives into one. Profit-making and environmental improvement can be combined, but it is certainly not obvious, or even logical, that they can be combined in all cases. Indeed, as Janne Hukkinen has argued, in many real-world cases the two objectives need to be clearly separated and choices need to be made between them. The proper identification of what he terms the different "time-scales" for different types of technological development projects and a "sensitivity" about the specific, local conditions of "institutional design" is especially important (Hukkinen 1999).

Perhaps the main dilemma ofgreen business is that there are no universally applicable solutions. What seems to be appropriate in one setting is often counterproductive in another. What we might call the "institutional logic" of one company is often incompatible, or incommensurable, with the operational logic of another. In this, as in so many other areas of social life, a specific, processual, and cultural focus can be extremely useful. If green business is to make any real contribution to the ecological transformations of our societies its modes of operation need to become more culturally sensitive and contextually informed. As the authors of a paper on "cleaner production and organizational learning" have put it, after reviewing a number of experiences in different companies, there needs to be "more fundamental questioning of existing technological trajectories and the corporate interests and socio-economic assumptions which underpin them. The recognition of limitations to firm-based organizational learning as a route to sustainable industry, given that business survival and profitability is the core concern in a competitive, globalized economy, reinforces the need for creative thinking and experimentation..." (Vickers and Cordey-Hayes 1999: 90).

NOTES

This chapter draws on the case-study of the Greening of Industry network that was conducted as a part of the European research project, Public Engagement and Science and Technology Policy Options (PESTO), for which the author served as coordinator (see Jamison ed. 1999). In addition to the participatory observation of network conferences discussed here, the case study involved interviews with Kurt Fischer and Johan Schot as well as a background report on the network written by Jose Andringa as part of her work in the project. 1 The Shell advertisement I saw frequently in 1999 was particularly striking. A former activist is shown lying on his back staring into space in a dramatic natural setting. The camera zooms in and he tells us why he has decided to work for Shell and help them to save nature by developing renewable energy.

Also worthy of note are the frequent automobile advertisements with a green message; for example, Mitsubishi has recently run one to tell us that it has been producing a new engine for only one reason: "the earth." Meanwhile a new Toyota, powered by a hybrid motor, is depicted in one advertisement as a small, marginal presence amid a forest of giant trees. "Don't think about the environment," the advertisement tells us, "Let Toyota do it for you" (Sydsvenska dagbladet, 19 October 2000).

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Productive Entrepreneur

The Productive Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs and business owners. Discover 45 Insightful Tips To Motivate, Encourage And Energize You To Become A Successful Entrepreneur. These Tips Will Move You Forward Towards Your Goals As An Entrepreneur. Use It As A Handbook Whenever You Need To Get Motivated.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment