Center for Positive Organizations Recognizes “Hope Cultures in Organizations” with 2022 Award for Outstanding Published Article in Positive Organizational Scholarship 

July 1, 2022

The Michigan Ross Center for Positive Organizations is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2022 Award for Outstanding Published Article in Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) is “Hope Cultures in Organizations: Tackling the Grand Challenge of Commercial Sex Exploitation.” The article was authored by Katina B. Sawyer (University of Arizona) and Judith A. Clair (Boston College) and published in Administrative Science Quarterly (2021). 

“Hope Cultures in Organizations” shares the results of a two-year ethnographic study of an organization tackling the grand challenge of commercial sex exploitation. The authors undertook a grounded approach while gathering data, whereby they iterated between data collection, data analysis, and the existing literature. From this study Sawyer and Clair build key theoretical insights about the role of hope culture in the pursuit of grand challenges.  

The authors posit that “understanding how grand challenges are addressed in and by organizations is increasingly part of organizational scholars’ work. An enduring tension faced by organizations tackling grand challenges is that achieving goals can be immensely difficult, if not impossible. Problems such as poverty and climate change are multilevel, multifaceted, and high stakes.” Research hints that hope may be key.  

Light for the Future (LFTF) is a residential, trauma-based rehabilitation program for survivors of commercial sex exploitation (CSE). LFTF’s mission centered on alleviating its residents’ suffering stemming from CSE through a one-year residential program which included free housing, food, clothing, medical care, legal services, psychological counseling, and job training. The authors ethnographic study of LFTF showed that when its hope culture was stronger, the organization more vibrantly pursued its grand challenge.  

The authors conclude that “to persist toward goals that can enhance society and our collective capacity for human flourishing, organizations that are tackling grand challenges must draw upon hope. In doing so, they might make greater progress toward a brighter future, even when times are tough.” 

Honorable Mentions were given to three additional papers, which uncovered important insights through empirical studies: 

  • “Rapid Relationality: How Peripheral Experts Build a Foundation for Influence with Line Managers,” published in Administrative Science Quarterly (2020), by Julia DiBenigno 
  • “Swift Sense of Community: Resourcing Artifacts for Rapid Community Emergence in a Temporary Organization,” published in the Academy of Management Journal (2021), by Reut Livne-Tarandach and Hooria Jazaieri  
  • “Intersectionality in Intractable Dirty Work: How Mumbai Ragpickers Make Meaning of Their Work and Lives,” published in the Academy of Management Journal (2021), by Dean A. Shepherd, Sally Maitlis, Vinit Parida, Joakim Wincent, and Thomas B. Lawrence 

The Award was established in 2008 by the Center for Positive Organizations, part of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Article submissions must be empirical in orientation and address key issues or themes in Positive Organizational Scholarship, but may be based on any discipline, such as psychology, sociology, or organizational studies. 

Sawyer and Clair were honored for their inspiring empirical contribution to the field at the 2022 Biennial Positive Organizational Scholarship Research Conference June 23-24, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.