Theorizing engagement: the potential of a critical dialogic approach

Jan Bebbington, Judy Brown, Bob Frame, Ian Hume Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

191 Citations (Scopus)


– The purpose of this paper is to contribute to discussions about engagement in social and environmental accounting, drawing on dialogic theory and philosophy. A dialogic approach, building on existing critical inquiries, is introduced to derive principles to inform “on the ground” engagements. Applying dialogic thinking to social and environmental accounting encourages the development of dialogic forms of accountability, more authentic engagements and is more likely to contribute to sustainable social and environmental change.

– Contains a synthesis of literature from within and beyond social and environmental accounting to shed light on the issues addressed by the special issue.

– Research engagements in social and environmental accounting need not be taken in a haphazard manner uninformed by theory. In particular, the “learning turn” in social sciences has generated a large body of theorizing (informed by concrete engagement activities) that can be used to shape, guide and support engagement.

Practical implications
– The principles developed can be used to inform future research design, with the aim of increasing the likelihood that such engagements will yield outcomes of “value” usually defined as emancipatory changes.

– This paper develops a new (to accounting) theoretical perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-381
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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