Relational Space and Learning Experiments: The Heart of Sustainability Collaborations

Research in Organizational Change and Development

ISBN: 978-0-85724-191-7, eISBN: 978-0-85724-192-4

ISSN: 0897-3016

Publication date: 8 July 2010


Corporations are now collaborating to meet complex global sustainability challenges, which, until recently, were considered beyond the mandate of business leaders. Multi-organizational consortia have formed, not as philanthropic efforts, but to find competitive advantage. To examine the dynamics of an early collaboration of this sort, with a view to suggesting how future inter-organizational projects might be fostered, we pursued an in-depth multi-method case study of “The Sustainability Consortium.” The Consortium has convened Fortune 50 senior managers since 1998. Our analysis uncovers the primacy of “Relational Space” – a rich context for aspirational trust and reflective learning across organizational boundaries, which is enabled by, and in turn gives rise to, collaborative projects. Within this space, an ecology of organizational leaders committed to sustainability can accomplish together what would be impossible in their individual organizations. We explain the viability of this collaboration.


Bradbury-Huang, H., Lichtenstein, B., Carroll, J.S. and Senge, P.M. (2010), "Relational Space and Learning Experiments: The Heart of Sustainability Collaborations", Pasmore, W.A., (Rami) Shani, A.B. and Woodman, R.W. (Ed.) Research in Organizational Change and Development (Research in Organizational Change and Development, Vol. 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 109-148.

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