Social Systems Theory and Engaged Scholarship: Co-designing a semantic reservoir in a polycentric network

Margit Neisig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose is to investigate a position for engaged scholarship bridging the gulf between theorizing and practice in a social system perspective using Design Thinking for assisting the emergence of a semantic reservoir in a polycentric network “in spe”. Design/methodology/approach: The paper combines social systems theory with the concept of engaged scholarship based on Design Thinking, and illustrates how such a research position might be applied to problems of polycentric networks as a theoretical/methodological case. Findings: The paper concludes on a possible role for an engaged scholarship as a midwife assisting the emergence of a shared semantic reservoir that is needed to make commitments and couplings possible to become a polycentric network. Design Thinking is explained as a structured way to irritate (disturb) other systems, and the role of a shared semantic reservoir for a polycentric network “in spe” is accounted for. Originality/value: Bridging the gulf between theorizing and practice in management theory is under-explored, and social systems theory underlines the immanent rigor-relevance gap, which this paper suggests a way not to overcome, but to bridge. The discussion of the rigor-relevance gap is revisited. Also, the critical process for a shared semantic reservoir to emerge in the formation of poly-centric networks is underexplored and so are its role for coupling of networks. The conceptual understanding thereof is also contributed to.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)763-777
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2021


  • Design thinking
  • Engaged scholarship
  • Polycentric networks
  • Shared semantic reservoir
  • Social systems theory

Cite this