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Triggers, traps, and disconnect: How governance obstacles hinder progress on grand challenges

Couture, F., Jarzabkowski, P. ORCID: 0000-0001-8674-6628 & Le, J. K. (2022). Triggers, traps, and disconnect: How governance obstacles hinder progress on grand challenges. Academy of Management Journal,


In this paper, we adopt a multi-stakeholder governance perspective to study how people collectively respond to a grand challenge. Specifically, we show how working through governance obstacles, i.e., coordinating and collaborating challenges arising from a multi-stakeholder governance approach to responding to grand challenges, can erode actors’ ability to mitigate these wicked problems. We illustrate this process through an in-depth case study of WaterHealthOrg, a multi-stakeholder initiative established to address degrading water health in Australia’s critical Great Barrier Reef region. Our findings reveal how, in an effort to avoid group paralysis or dissolution, actors employ specific practices to address governance obstacles. By doing so, actors set off a cumulative self-reinforcing process, driving them to consolidate rather than critically reflect on and adapt their collective response. Drawing on these insights, we develop a conceptual process model of how efforts to manage multi-stakeholder governance obstacles can generate governance traps which shape participants’ ability to collectively respond and, ultimately, mitigate grand challenges.

Publication Type: Article
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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