CSR Professional? Yes, I am! : Sense-Making and Sense-Giving as Mechanisms of Professionalization in the CSR Field


Speaker:Charles Cho, ESSEC Business School
Date: Wednesday 18 January 2017
Time: 14:30 - 16:00
Location: Kolade Teaching Room, Building One

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The purpose of this study is to explore the professionalization strategies at work within the field of CSR in South Korea. We follow CSR actors and the micro-dynamics whereby a quasi-professional status is progressively being claimed, developed and secured. Drawing on the notions of sensemaking and sensegiving developed by Erving Goffman, we analyze the self-presentation discourses of fifty-five individuals professionally involved in the CSR field in South Korea. This analysis allows us to identify four different types of sensemaking framings, which we label “strategic corporate giving”, “social innovation”, “risk management” and finally “sustainability transition”. Findings indicate that within each of those frames CSR quasi-professionals also engaged in different sensegiving strategies. These four different sensemaking and sensegiving mechanisms imply that individuals in less stabilized fields, where there are not only one dominant manual but several related institutional areas, choose one or two of those related institutional area(s) that they are willing to take advantage of and be constrained by. This study bring three main contributions. First, it extends our understanding of professionalization and its mechanisms by unpacking the discursive strategies at work in an emergent quasi-professional field. Second, by mobilizing Goffman’s sensemaking and sensegiving notions, we explore the recursive interplays between micro-level inter-subjective dynamics and macro-level extra-subjective structures in this process of quasi-professionalization. Third, this study contributes to the collective exploration of “markets for virtue” (Vogel, 2007) by focusing on an empirical context – CSR in South Korea – that has rarely been investigated before and can generate interesting insights applicable to similar national contexts.