On January 19, Santi Furnari, Professor of Strategy and Associate Dean for Executive Education at the Bayes Business School, City, University of London, presented some of his most recent work.
Title: Civic Elites? The Emergence of a Civic Vision through Elite Engagement
Abstract: Since the writings of C. Wright Mills and before him Pareto, sociologists, political scientists and organization theorists have showed how elites can act in self-interested and conservative ways. Differently, we examine the processes and conditions under which elites can contribute to social innovation by creating a new, civic vision. By “civic vision” we mean an imagined future that is largely embraced by the citizens of a local community (being it a city, a neighbourhood, a region or a place). Although early studies point to opposition between ‘elites’ and ‘civic’ goals, we explore how a civic vision can still emerge from elites, thereby making a ‘civic elite’ possible through social innovation processes. We draw on a historical case study of Chicago’s Millennium Park (1998-2004)’s half-a-billion project aimed at building a new public park to celebrate the Millennium. The design of this park was shaped by different philanthropic, political and professional elites pursuing their different ideas of what the park should look like. Drawing on an extensive primary archive on the project triangulated with 60 interviews and historical data, we analyzed how exactly elites attached their ideas to the project and what “tools of imagination” (e.g., maps, plans, budgets) they used during the project development. We show how the vision of the project evolved as a consequence of the gaps left in the project plans and the tensions between the different elites, ultimately making the vision (and the elites) become ‘civic’, while pursuing a multiplicity of interests. Our contribution is a process model of elite engagement and civic vision emergence. We draw implications for research on elites, civic action and place-based communities.
Santi is Professor of Strategy at Bayes Business School, City, University of London, where he also served as Associate Dean. Currently, he is a 2023-24 Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University. He has studied how spaces and places shape the emergence of fields, industries and practices, and used configurational theorizing and methods to explain causally complex phenomena, such as organizational innovation and shareholders’ activism for climate change. Santi’s research has been published in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, Journal of Management, and Management Science (among others). Santi is Senior Editor at the journal Organization Studies. He served as the Representative-at-Large of the OMT Division of the Academy of Management from 2019 to 2022. His paper on “Interstitial Spaces” won the AMR Best Paper Award in 2014.
He is being hosted by the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation and MOR at the Marshall School of Business.