Tom Lawrence has recently received the Network for Business Sustainability’s 2018 Research Impact on Practice Award
The award, sponsored by the Network for Business Sustainability and the Academy of Management’s Organizations and the Natural Environment Division, recognises work on sustainability that has important implications for practice.
Lawrence received the award for his paper High Stakes Institutional Translation: Establishing North America’s First Government-Sanctioned Supervised Injection Site. The paper, which is published in the Academy of Management Journal, explores how controversial social change happens. Specifically, it examines situations where potentially effective responses to serious social problems are left untried, because those responses are considered politically, culturally, or morally problematic. Lawrence concludes that this problem can be overcome, yet doing so depends on recurring waves of experimentation and innovation, fuelled by intense emotions and empathy.
Lawrence’s conclusions are drawn from his study of the ways in which the city of Vancouver, Canada, responded to an epidemic of drug users’ overdoses and infectious diseases. Ultimately, Vancouver established North America’s first supervised injection site for users of illegal drugs, reducing the number of deaths by providing safer injection conditions and access to health services.
Lawrence argues that Vancouver’s experience provides lessons for any community faced with a serious social problem requiring a response which might challenge people’s beliefs and values. 'The ability of local communities to respond to the problems they face is as often a matter of culture, values, and emotions, as technological innovation. The challenge is not improving technologies, but opening up hearts and minds to the possibility of change.'