From Topic to Problem. Organizational Mechanisms of Constructing Demographic Change

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 54
Oral Presentation
Sven KETTE , Frohburgstrasse 3, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
By referring to organizational theorists like Karl E. Weick and Niklas Luhmann, the proposed contribution starts from the assumption that for organizations demographic change is not a clear and unambiguous given problem, but rather a topic which might be regarded (i.e. constructed) as a problem-or not. Consequently, demographic change is understood as a non-instructive problem, which can be framed in different ways (e.g. risk, catastrophe, or standard problem). Based on the analysis of qualitative expert interviews that has been conducted in organizations of various types (e.g. business firms, health insurer, local government, social welfare organizations), I want to present preliminary results on the question: Which structural elements and which mechanisms are crucial for the organizational construction of demographic change as a problem?

More specifically, the proposed contribution wants to shed light on two aspects: first, it is asked as what kind of problem the demographic change is constructed by organizations. This refers to the organizational construct of demographic change itself and aims at identifying different types of constructs. Second, it is asked how the demographic change is constructed as a relevant problem. This refers to the process of constructingdemographic change as a certain type of problem and aims at identifying crucial structural elements certain types of constructs depend on.

Obviously, this approach does not refer to a shifted objective and real social structural reality and its related challenges for organizations. Instead, it asks for the conditions which let organizations pay attention to such phenomena like an aging and/or declining population. To address this question promises a central contribution to understand why and how organizations by themselves do or do not refer to a shift in the social structure of populations at all.