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Organizational Development for a Better World

The undeniable call of our times for leaders today is to help build a better world. Former CEO of Unilever and Honorary Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, Paul Polman, recently stated, “What we are witnessing is a shift that is all-embracing, rapid, irreversible, extending to the far corners of the planet and involving practically every aspect of business life. We are witnessing a world increasingly divided by companies that are seen as part of the problem and those leading the solution revolution in this, the era of massive mobilization. What we are witnessing is the birth of a comprehensive new enterprise logic, one that can not only create thicker value and truer wealth but can also be a platform for building the 21st-century company, that will be loved by its customers, envied by its peers, and admired by all those who care about the next decisive decades of our planet.”

While the challenges ahead may feel unimaginably daunting, the opportunities for organizations to evolve and elevate their work in the world are vast.  In many ways, there has never been a more decisive moment for organizations to step up and scale up their approaches to leadership and cooperative change. The overarching question is: “How?”

In a recent special issue of the Organization Development Review Journal, which Dr. David Cooperrider and I co-edited, we addressed this very question. With articles by thought leaders and practitioners around the world, this special issue titled “One Giant Leap: How Organization Development Can Help Lead the Net-Positive Earthshot” outlines six actions in the field of organization development (OD) and change you can take to meet the call of our times. These actions include:

  1. Commit to supporting and rapidly accelerating the world’s deep transformation to a sustainable planetary future and regenerative economy in the service of life.
  2. Acknowledge that to build a regenerative and flourishing future we will need to re-design the entire material basis of our civilization.
  3. Aim higher and mobilize the momentous energy of this historic time.
  4. Recognize that all OD work, from the tiniest and most localized, to the macro and most globalized, involves the intimate integrity of all ecosystems, economies, and societal systems and thereby needs all to be treated as one common system.
  5. Appreciate that the next two decades will be decisive and that the science-based targets for climate action, social equity, and inclusion, establishing a net positive economy, and advancing health and well-being for all must be achieved if we are to make our needed transformations before it is too late.
  6. Accelerate change success, scale solutions, and living proof stories of net positive impact, and leverage OD’s commitment to share and accelerate new knowledge of consequence.

These six actions taken collectively point to a North Star for the field of organization development and specific pathways of impact. The articles gathered for this special issue begin to bring this portfolio of possibilities to life through powerful examples and stories from the field, new OD models, interdisciplinary evidence-based research, and prospective exploration of what it looks like for the field of OD to rise to this moment.

These ideas are infused into Champlain College Online’s own newly redesigned master’s in organization development & human resource management (ODHR) program. This 100% online program is designed to prepare students to nimbly address organizational challenges and influence change at individual and group levels in today’s global organizations, in ways that address the pressing challenges of our times.

Whatever your learning journey is as a leader, I invite you to ask yourself how you are helping to lead your organization to create a positive impact on the world today.


To subscribe to the Organization Development Review Journal, a premier publication and valuable resource to any organizational development professional, visit The Organization Development Network.

About the Author

Lindsey Godwin, PhD

Lead Faculty, MS in Leadership Program

Lindsey Godwin, PhD, leads Champlain's online master's in leadership program; she also serves as the Academic Director for the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry, and is the Robert P. Stiller Endowed Chair & Professor of Management in Champlain's Stiller School of Business.

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