Emphasising ethical, psychological, social and cultural lenses of enquiry, the Centre’s research program offers a distinctive and innovative approach to an important yet largely neglected area of meaningful work as a vital, yet often neglected, aspect of organisational life. Our empirical focus on meaningful work explores practical solutions for coordinating and organising human activities – both within and beyond formal workplaces – with transformative potential to serve the common good.

Our research activities focus on three inter-linked themes:

Theme 1: Transformational work in organisations and society

Theme Leader – Professional Michael Fischer

This theme explores the mobilising potential of communities, groups, and other network-based forms of organising to undertake transformational work in organisations and civil society. Empirically, we address the dynamics of major societal ‘tension points’, especially in healthcare, education, and other human service organisations – where the perspectives and meaningful participation of end users and other stakeholders, have potential to create transformational change. By focusing on agentic forms of distributed leadership and participation across organisational and sector boundaries, we illuminate practices of effectively mobilising and distributing social capital.

Theme 2: Developing work participation, resilience and growth, across the lifespan

Theme Leader – Associate Professor Bart de Jong

This theme addresses the rapidly changing ‘ecosystem’ of work across the lifespan, as advances in information and wider technologies, market and economic uncertainties, and wider societal changes mediate and reconfigure relations between workers, organisations and society. Empirically, this focuses on the abilities of workers, their families and wider communities to navigate the mechanisms and stressors of change, and to strengthen their competences, adaptive capacities and resilience. Both analytically and practically, we explore and develop potential solutions for tackling the future challenges of work, by highlighting areas for positive adaptation through education, workplace development and broader policy initiatives.

Theme 3: Worker dignity, health and wellbeing

Theme Leader – Dr Sugumar Mariappandar

This theme addresses the transformative potential of work for, by and with some of society’s most marginalised and vulnerable people, often at the periphery of organisations’ concerns. Highlighting everyday work routines and practices links analysis with practical interventions focused on improving organisational life from bottom up. Empirically, we analyse the dynamics of engagement and precarity associated with front line work, both in and out of formal employment, for refugees and migrants; for the working poor, temporary and unemployed workers; and of experiences of consumers and public service users. By illuminating aspects of organisational functioning rarely revealed to outsiders, we develop critical insights that offer a distinctive contribution to ACU’s mission of ‘Impact through Empathy’ amongst our students, with partner organisations, and wider stakeholders.