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The Spread of Recycling in Universities

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I will present early stage work that revisits my early research on the spread of recycling in universities (Lounsbury, 2001) to understand how the instantiation of activist recycling coordinators in the 1990s shaped the subsequent development of sustainability programs. Drawing on the literature at the interface of social movements and organizations, we show how insider activists, seeded by the recycling movement, expand organizational opportunity structures in ways that enhance receptivity to a subsequent movement. We document that the expansion of opportunity structures relied on building a field-wide community of practice that provided social and technical support for localized efforts to deepen, stretch and expand recycling practices in ways that enhanced receptivity to sustainability across their university communities. These efforts were often more mundane and under the radar, and rarely involved efforts to agitate. Implications for the study of insider and outsider activists, and the study of how social movements can affect organizational change are discussed.

This talk is part of the CJBS Organisational Theory and Information Systems seminars series.

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