The role(s) of universities in dealing with global wicked problems through multi-stakeholder initiatives

D. Dentoni, V.C. Bitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Multi-stakeholder initiatives have emerged as collaborative partnerships to deal with wicked problems, particularly in the global food system. This article analyzes the role that academics play in these initiatives at a global level, and the nature of their participation. Based on a qualitative analysis supported by a database of 41 multi-stakeholder initiatives in the global agriculture and food sector and 51 interviews with their participants, this research identifies five key roles that academics play in multi-stakeholder initiatives and in communities of practice around them. In multi-stakeholder initiatives, academics act as knowledge experts, agenda-setting advisors and facilitators. In communities of practice, academics develop new knowledge on multi-stakeholder initiatives by theorizing from their observation and reflection and they build international bridges between students and multi-stakeholder initiatives. The results imply that academics engaging in multi-stakeholder initiatives that deal with global wicked problems can choose multiple paths to align their societal mission of co-creating sustainability with the broader organizational goals of their universities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-78
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Universities
  • Multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • Cross-sector collaboration
  • Sustainable development
  • Wicked problems

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