The Foundation for Enterprise Development Publishes Proceedings of the 2011 Beyster Fellowship Symposium

by Martin Staubus

FED Group

Photo by Hilde Stephan/Courtesy of the Foundation for Enterprise Development

On July 26, 2011, university scholars from around the U.S. and Canada came together for a three-day symposium in La Jolla, Calif. to share their latest research into the nature and effects of employee ownership. Now, the proceedings of that event have been published and posted by the Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED) at www.fed.org/advancing-research-beyster-symposium.

The theme of the 2011 Symposium was: Open Systems: Applying Diverse Employee Ownership Theories to Address Today's Complex Challenges. Forty scholars came from 23 universities and participated in the program. The event represented the third such symposia. The participants were academics, some of them widely known veterans of research and publication in the employee ownership field, but many more of whom were young scholars ? doctoral students and assistant professors ? much newer to the field. These scholars shared research plans and early findings from studies investigating the nature and effects of employee ownership from many perspectives. The Beyster Institute led a session focused on methods for teaching employee ownership at universities.

The genesis of the Beyster Fellowship Symposium series lies in the groundbreaking work of the FED which, in 2007, established the Beyster Fellowship program to encourage and support scholarly research in the field of employee ownership by young faculty and graduate students at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. The FED's lead was eventually followed by other organizations that established similar programs to support research in this field. Participants have come away from each of the annual symposia newly informed, more inspired, and with a deeper understanding of what employee ownership can mean to businesses, to the individuals who work at those firms and to society as a whole.

Mired in an extended downturn, our economy is struggling to find a new way forward to restore widespread prosperity in an economic environment that features an unprecedented level of global competition. These conditions will require exceptionally innovative and productive firms. And, as the work presented at the symposium makes clear, the needed innovation is not limited merely to innovation in products ? not centered only on better information systems or bio-technology. The search for solutions raises complex, interrelated questions concerning the role of employees both in their companies (issues of motivation, participation, innovation and productivity) and in the economy (issues of personal access to capital, opportunities for wealth and income generation and a shared stake in prosperity).

In these conditions, employee ownership is gaining new attention in academia with the emergence of many new scholars in the field. And this attention may be timely, as the world grapples with economic difficulties that may represent more than just another trip around the usual business cycle. The challenges that now face the American economy ? and all developed economies in today's global economic environment ? make this an important time to explore the full potential of employee ownership, to see what possibilities it might hold as a means of forging societies that are at once efficient, productive and just.

As with the past symposia, each participant presented an update on his or her research, and in turn received constructive feedback. The symposium thus provided a unique opportunity for all participants to learn how employee ownership can be viewed from a diverse range of disciplinary perspectives.

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