DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.12808 ISSN: 1045-3172

Negotiating Narratives of ‘Good’: A Model of Public Value Adaptation in a Grand Challenge Intervention

Jennifer Bealt, Duncan Shaw
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


At the core of each grand challenge is a society that is thought to have a need and organizations with an ambition to address that need. This article explores the necessary negotiations between organizations and society as they address a grand challenge involving an ambitious programme of change. Using Narrative Inquiry, we analysed 78 interviews conducted with organizations and society in rural Sarawak (Borneo) to understand the process of negotiating narratives of public value when intervening in the societal grand challenge of rural electrification. We found that organizations and society amplified and attenuated narratives of public value through a boundary object (electrical energy), where they pushed out and pulled in viewpoints to adapt narratives of the intervention's public value. The paternal nature of the organization's management of the intervention created conflict about what its perceived and real benefits were. The model we develop explains how conflicting narratives of public value are negotiated and adapted using boundary objects. In illustrating this process, we provide a theoretical model that management research can use to assess the boundary objects, narratives and public values that organizations apply when they seek to do good, and to understand the conflict and negotiation with society where they intervene.

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