Research axis

Democratic management

The Democratic Management axis will focus on the design and dissemination of governance models, management tools and anti-oppressive practices prioritizing the democratization of organizations, collectives and companies working in social innovation. A close integration between theory and practice, critical analysis and collective experimentation, will seek to promote action research and the creation of new methods to increase democracy in the workplace, at a structural level and in daily organizational practices. Considering the complexity of organizational dynamics and multiple power relations within organizations, this axis will be divided into four components: critical management studies, self-management and democratic leadership, democratic governance, social impact assessment.

1. The "Critical Management Studies" section analyzes management sciences, management methods and the sociology of organizations through the prism of multiple critical theories: Frankfurt School, feminist and postcolonial theories, poststructuralism, etc. The objective of this critical approach is to uncover the relationships of domination and oppression within companies and professional circles in order to foster the empowerment of actors and individuals affected by the decisions of the organization. Understanding inequalities (in terms of class, gender, race, etc.), as well as processes of discrimination, subordination and alienation, will highlight the potential transformations of structures and practices from a perspective of social equality, democratization and emancipation.

2. The "Self-management and democratic governance" section seeks to develop tools, organizational methods, management techniques and conflict resolution strategies to increase the direct involvement of workers within diverse organizational facets. Action research in the field of self-management approaches and new techniques of collaborative management will identify best practices promoting autonomy, democratic leadership and anti-oppressive practices in the workplace. Rather than being limited to the dominant discourse of "good governance" modeled by multinational corporations and traditional private enterprises, democratic governance seeks to develop new inclusive, egalitarian and participatory models inspired by collective enterprises, commons and organizations that challenge hierarchical models that duplicate the rigid separation between the roles of leadership and execution.

3. The "Social Impact Assessment" section seeks to develop new tools, methods and instruments to assess the complex social, economic, environmental and democratic impact of organizations. At a time where we see the proliferation of "impact measures" (cost-benefit analysis, global reporting initiative, impact reporting and investment standards, social return on investment, etc.), a critical, rigorous and systematic analysis of existing techniques, as well as the creation of new indicators that are more attuned to power relations, structures of domination, the democratic dimension and social change, are necessary to foster the emergence of social innovations that are truly transformative.

The Democratic Management axis thus becomes the laboratory of organizational micro-dynamics that allows us to think from everyday practice to the construction of social movements in Social Action as much as the development of new institutions through the Emancipation axis.  


The Emancipation axis will focus on theoretical and practice-based reflection. In line with classical critical theory and its contemporary formulations in a feminist and postcolonial perspective, the goal will be to deepen the reflection on the nature of emancipation today. This reflection will be twofold: a critical analysis on the existing society and an attempt to articulate what the emancipated society would be. On the one hand, understand the logics that block emancipation; on the other, imagine, conceive, and create models and ideas that would make it possible. However, the first moment will have to serve the second, the goal is to understand the barriers in order to advance proposals and positive projects. This work is divided into two sections:

  1. The « Critical Analysis of Systems » section: this component proposes a critique of oppression systems in their dynamics and intersections of patriarchy, colonialism and capitalism. This section proposes a critical analysis of alternative models that have already been introduced and economic-political models that have been described in existing literature. The methodological approach favored in the first part is textual analysis.
  2. The « Design and New Models » section: This second part focuses on the conceptualization of institutions, models and alternative organizations. Here the reflection is on the design of new political and economic institutions and their links with the transformation of social relations of class, gender and race. This second component also has an important empirical dimension in order to evaluate the possibilities of putting in place different economic and political models.
The selection and prioritization of research projects will be based on their relevance to social transformation and the movement that bring them into being. Particular emphasis will be placed on filling the propositional deficit stemming from practices related to critical theories that have favored criticism of society. By combining their reflections on localized innovations and societal transformations, researchers and practitioners will be invited to answer the question: « What would you propose to replace the current system? » This work will enter into dialogue with two other axes of the Center. In connection with the Social Action axis, it is particularly a question of understanding the relationship between the long-term objectives of social transformation, and the strategies employed to achieve them.  It is also a question of how to apply certain elements of transformational propositions within social movements themselves. In connection with the Democratic Management axis, we problematize the current and potential links between the macro organization of society and micromanagement within organizations.

Engaged Pedagogies and Practice of Research

The Engaged Pedagogies and Practice of Research axis is devoted to pedagogical issues and research practices. The work under this theme will look at how teaching and action-research programs in collaboration with the community can be mobilized as tools for social transformation within and outside the university context. With a focus on research and engaged pedagogy, action research, participatory research methods, community-university collaboration, experiential learning and strategies Anti-oppressive pedagogies, the research carried out under this axis will explore how to nurture innovation and social transformation both in the classrooms and within the entire university community in order to build strong and lasting relationships between researcher, practitioner and members of the community. This research will invite us to pay particular attention to the resulting demands for creativity. The strands according to which this axis of the research program will unfold are still being defined.

Social Action

The Social Action axis will focus on the study of social movements and their contributions, from a perspective of systemic change. The sociology of social movements offers a rich field of study to understand how social movements emerge and develop, as well as their results, impacts and consequences. Research on the dynamics of protest, between movements and different forms of authority offers interesting perspectives from which to better understand the transformation of power relations. The Social Action axis is therefore, particularly interested in forms of organization and action developed by social movements to transform the balance of power at the societal level. The Social Action axis aims to contribute to research in social innovation across perspectives seeking to better understand the link between social movements and systemic power structures. This implies a consideration of the complexities of articulating various dimensions of change (individual and structural) as well as different social spheres (political, economic, social). The work is divided into two main sections:

  1. « Intersectional Studies of Social Movements »: This component aims to integrate an intersectional perspective into research on, and with, social movements to foster a deeper understanding of the dynamics of power in social movement organizations, such as the demands and dynamics of power between different actors.
  2. « Tactical and strategic knowledge »: This second component is aimed at both collaborative development and the participatory transfer of tactical and strategic knowledge through social action. More specifically, the initial work brings into dialogue social movement studies examining tactical repertoires and collective action frame with theoretical approaches from the Essex School on the rhetorical construction of society.
Qualitative research on social movements will be prioritized across this axis in order to study the complexity of power dynamics between different actors and how the action of social movements contributes to the transformation of oppressive systems. The material and symbolic dimensions will be considered in the analyzes, as well as the individual and structural levels, in particular their link and relation to one another. The Social Action axis thus nourishes the other axes by linking localized innovations and societal transformations.