Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

The Development of Managerial Competencies: A Collaborative Inquiry into the Practice of Sustainability

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

The Development of Managerial Competencies: A Collaborative Inquiry into the Practice of Sustainability

Article excerpt

This is a work about human and social management of organisations. It is a work focused on managers' reality, in which the interests of various stakeholders are taken into account, and not merely those of shareholders. The work reflects on organisational-level questions and possibilities for sustainability. The general objective was to investigate, using a cooperative methodology, the competency development of managers, by introducing the sustainability discussion in this organisation's environment. Paradoxes and ambiguities appeared to be significant for the development of competencies. These aspects, ignored in uncritical business programmes, were fundamental in broadening the vision of the managers involved.

Key words: sustainability, sustainable development, competencies, hospitality, co-operative inquiry

1. Introduction

Humanity is currently living in a time of existential concern over large-scale risks provoked by human action, which could affect everyone on the planet (Beck, 2007). Society fears floods, catastrophes linked to extreme temperature increase or decrease, great famines, social disturbances and mass migrations, with risks linked to global warming and climate change. Society is also discussing the risks inherent to the accumulation of waste on land, in the sea, and even in the atmosphere.

There has been a resurgence of the dialectical contradiction between the dominant paradigm of neoliberal capitalist expansionism and its antithesis, the eco-socialist paradigm (Santos, 2007). The first worldview has undergone commercial and industrial revolutions and now finds itself in what can be described as a 'financial revolution'. Its antithesis is unfolding into radical environmental, conservationist, preservationist and political ecology currents, and is now manifesting itself in the form of the 'new social movements'. According to Beck (2007, p. 3) a paradigm shift is taking place and "It is becoming apparent that the sovereignty of the market represents a fatal threat given the danger of catastrophic climate change."

Sustainable development, eco-development or sustainability are terms that have been conceived of differently since the initial impulse given by the 1972 Stockholm Conference and the 1987 Brundtland Report. These terms arose in the scope of the discussion about climate change and as proposals to solve these problems. Veiga (2010, p. 51) warns about the fact that renouncing the idea of development and using only the term sustainability can be "[...] an ideological trap invented to perpetuate asymmetric relationships between dominant minorities and dominated majorities, within countries and between countries." To some critical authors, the term sustainable development is also impregnated with neoliberal economic notions (Banerjee, 2003). As with the term 'development', 'sustainable development' (SD) means practices, policies and meanings that resulted in damage for most of the world's population, especially the rural populations of the developing world. Terms like sustainability and SD are still being constructed in the scope of colonialist and exploitative thought.

This definition difficulty is inserted in the profound questions of paradigmatic shocks, originating from the dialectical contradictions exposed in the opening paragraphs. It is a theme that covers diverse aspects and social, environmental, cultural, technological and economic interests which often remain obscure, impenetrable and unspoken. Even so, in this work we chose to use the term 'sustainability', due to its recurrence in academic studies about business and in the organisational environment itself.

As a result, society requires organisations and their managers to position themselves in relation to sustainability. Managers, as individual actors and/or collectively with their teams, are the ones who, on the one hand, suffer the structural influence of the systems in which they are inserted and, on the other hand, reflect on these influences and propose modification. …

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