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Management through hope: an ethnography of Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island

Irina Papazu (Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 11 July 2016




The purpose of this paper is to analyse the process of social and technical change that took place between 1997 and 2007 through which Samsø, a rural island of 4,000 inhabitants, became Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island (REI).


Building on ethnographic fieldwork conducted on Samsø in 2013 and 2014, the paper takes as its starting point a citizens’ meeting in which a new renewable energy project is proposed by a municipal coordinator. This meeting, in which the municipal coordinator exhibits a “change management” attitude, fails to win the citizens’ support and becomes an entry point into an investigation of how the REI project developers managed to get the island community to actively support the project. A gateway to the past, the meeting allows the author to ethnographically describe the unobserved events of 1997-2007.


The argument is that the REI project developers practised management through hope or “hope management”, in contrast to “change management”, creating a project that succeeded in accomplishing its goals of changing the island due to its openness, its rootedness in the island community’s past, and the project developers’ ability to speak to a down-to-earth variety of hope.


The paper makes use of an ethnographic study of the present to investigate an unobserved past in which a REI was built. Taking up the “hope debate” in anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (Stengers, 2002; Miyazaki, 2004; Jensen, 2014), the paper contributes with an empirical analysis of the role of hope in the management of change processes.



Papazu, I. (2016), "Management through hope: an ethnography of Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 184-200.



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