Our second meeting was held on October 5thand 6th at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. At this meeting, we wanted to explore in more depth the “behavioral perspective” on microfoundations of institutions. Precisely, our aim was to discuss and reflect how studying micro-level practices and interactions helps us in advancing the conceptualization of microfoundations of institutions.
As organizers, we were fortunate to welcome a set of magnificent speakers to our meeting. Keynote speakers Michael Smets (Oxford) and Ola Henfridsson (Warwick) triggered great discussions related to how practice-driven institutionalism and rapid changes in digital technologies help us understand topics such as institutional change, stability, and hybridity. Additionally, Johanna Mair (Hertie School of Governance & Stanford) introduced us to her fascinating approach to scaling social innovation. Finally, Ivano Cardinale (Goldsmiths) enabled a vivid meta-theoretical discussion that reoriented our attention at the assumptions that guide theorizing in the area of microfoundations of institutional theory.
The breadth of these topics reflects the diversity of our discussions. Deeply theoretical concerns met with empirically-driven questions and advancement in each of these areas is very important for advancing microfoundations of institutions. For example, rapid changes in digital innovation have changed both identity of and the scale at which highly institutionalized organizations like theatres operate. This can have substantive implications for how theatres in particular but cultural fields in general operate and change. It may also allow to reconsider the long-standing question about how technology and institutions are interrelated. Furthermore, scaling of social innovation is not only relevant to practice, it also allows us to understand some important questions related to field-wide change. Similar to changes affected through rapid spread of digital innovations, scaling may be one key mechanism to be better understood in future research on microfoundations of institutions.
In addition to these empirically-grounded insights, theoretical groundwork on microfoundations of institutions is important and perhaps overdue. As many publications in the area of institutional theory now mention the term “microfoundations”, time is high to clarify what we mean by that and to explicate the asssumptions that undergird our arguments. For example, key differences exist between practice-driven approaches and approaches that rely on Coleman’s ‘bath tub.’ Explicating and problematizing these differences is but one aspect that future theory development ought to attend to.
The Berlin meeting fruitfully tapped into these potentials and we are looking forward to building on and exploiting them through our future work.