Managing and Accounting for Knowledge-Intensive Public Organisations: Challenges Represented by COVID-19 Pandemic to Achieve SDGs
In 2015 the United Nations invited organisations worldwide to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 to produce more desirable outcomes at the international, national, regional and local levels.
Knowledge-Intensive Public Organisations (KIPOs) are subjects focused primarily on accumulating, creating, or disseminating knowledge through highly-skilled workers (Grossi et al., 2020a). In KIPOs, knowledge is the key input and as well as output. They supply or co-produce public services and, due to their economic, societal, and environmental impacts, are involved in achieving SDGs.
Examples of KIPOs, such as universities schools or research hospitals, are crucial for the community's well-being. They provide education, develop research and innovation and move many people by employing several workers and attracting various users worldwide. They also absorb substantial public-private financial resources, produce non-recyclable waste, and involve a vast network of stakeholders. Their services have long-term outcomes. Clinical research results are transformed into applications to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and therapy of human diseases. The skills students acquire during a study course will be part of the knowledge of tomorrow's professionals. Also, museums and theatres maintain public spaces of significant artistic interest and sustain cultural education.
Hence, KIPOs' activities impact variously on the SDGs. To name only a few examples, consider the following. These organisations can support people in vulnerable conditions, creating social protection systems that help eradicate poverty (Goal No. 1), reduce inequalities and live in a more just and equitable society (Goal No. 16). They can raise lifestyles awareness, ensuring healthy lives (Goal No. 3). They can nourish quality education and increase learning opportunities (Goal No. 4). They influence gender equality and reduce disparities through employment (Goals No. 5, 8 and 10). Their consumption and production patterns affect natural resources, climate change and waste management (Goals No. 12, 13, 14 and 15), the infrastructures, economic growth and innovation (Goal No. 9). They improve scientific research and technological capabilities and establish partnerships between different organisations (Goal No. 17). They can cope or anticipate crises or mitigate risk, supporting the resilience of the services provided (Goal No. 11).
Previous literature on KIPOs addressed their complex accounting, performance management, payment systems, and alternative forms of accounting and reporting (e.g. Laguecir et al., 2020). Also, it highlighted the hybridisation of some KIPOs, characterised by mixed ownership, multiple funding arrangements, competing institutional logics and potential goals incongruence, diverse forms of social and institutional control (e.g. Pache and Santo, 2013; De Waele et al., 2021). Though, hybrid KIPOs experience composite decision-making, governance and accountability processes (Johanson and Vakkuri, 2018).
Nevertheless, some research directions are yet to be explored.
This special issue aims to develop a corpus of research on KIPOs concerning the SDGs pursuit and the challenges posed to such organisations by the disruptive event of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a timely topic of international relevance essential to understanding implications for the future on the services they provide and their impact on communities (e.g. Grossi et al., 2021).
Since 2020, the virus outbreak has worsened socio-economic disparities globally, entering the time frame of the SDGs and intensifying their need and urgency (UN, 2020; Adams and Abhayawansa, 2021). Indeed, the SDGs pursuit by organisations delivering public services relates to public value and publicness issues (e.g. Bastida et al., 2022; Bracci et al., 2021; Campanale et al., 2021).
Scholars have promptly studied inequalities and public services management during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. Andrew et al., 2021; Carnegie et al., 2021), calling for further research (Leoni et al., 2021). Moreover, scholars have undertaken SDGs-motivated research, albeit slowly (Bebbington and Unerman, 2020; Hassan et al., 2021; Adhikariparajuli et al., 2021).
Therefore, research is unaligned with the SDGs' ambitions, and the challenges public organisations face in a world reshaped by COVID-19. Specifically, studies on the SDGs pursuit by KIPOs in a post-COVID-19 world (or in a mid-pandemic environment) are limited.
Notably, KIPOs' contribution to sustainable development was under-explored before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing economic, social and environmental concerns. Little is known about the KIPOs' commitment to the SDGs, if they deliberately pursue them or, vice versa, are unaware of them. Given the peculiarity of these organisations and their impacts, it is appropriate to investigate the differences between the political level, i.e. the SDGs pursuit through strategic plans and objectives, and the technical one, i.e. actions for their achievement. Yet, operationally how are they pursued within KIPOs. Also, the specific context of emerging economies, low-income and developing countries requires particular attention. Furthermore, understanding KIPO's measurement and reporting mechanisms, different disclosure levels towards the SDGs and ways to integrate non-financial information into financial and planning documents are needed.
Topics for submission
This Call for papers encourages contributions from different disciplines offering theoretical and conceptual insights, or deploying empirical data analysis (e.g. qualitative or quantitative, longitudinal, etc.), case studies in various countries and comparisons among different national systems, or other suitable methods to shed light on the SDGs pursuit by KIPOs and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Issues of potential interest include, but are not limited to:
- governance models and institutional logics;
- management problems and tensions derived from the pandemic and related solutions;
- management and accounting tools;
- accounting mechanisms and performance measurement systems;
- economic, financial, and human resources management system and related assessment mechanisms;
- management and accounting practices to embed SDGs in everyday activities;
- the impact of including SDGs in KIPOs' core activities such as teaching, training and research;
- risk mitigation systems.
These themes are only indicative. Papers outside them relevant to understanding the topic are welcomed.
Deadline for submissions: January the 31st, 2023
For inquiries and further information, please contact the guest editors:
University of Bologna - Italy
University of Bologna - Italy
University of the West of Scotland - United Kingdom
CQ University - Australia
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