Björn Gustavsen: Democratic Dialogue and Development

  • Richard Ennals
Living reference work entry


Björn Gustavsen, with an original professional background as a lawyer and judge in his native Norway, has had a formative role in organizational development processes in Norway, Sweden, Scandinavia, and the European Union over four decades. Following in the tradition of Norwegian working life research by Trist and Thorsrud, he has provided the conceptual framework and practical case studies which have driven major national and international programs. He has learned from different experience of organizational change in, for example, the USA and Japan, but he has identified a distinctive way forward for the European Union, where he has acted as a senior adviser. In contrast to conventional Taylorist top-down management and reliance on expert consultants, his approach has been bottom-up and concept driven, with a focus on empowering workers. With a commitment to long-term sustainable processes, he has emphasized the importance of capacity building and succession planning, highlighting development organizations. His approach to partnership and coalition building has enabled collaboration across sectors, in the cause of creating collaborative advantage. He has a distinctive fluent academic writing style, but spends most of his time engaged in the design and practice of development, and editing the work of younger colleagues. He has seen the role of academic journals and edited books in the development process, so has encouraged new publications, but without seeking to dominate. He took ideas of action research and case studies and applied them to national enterprise development programs, working with the labor market parties. This has resulted in a distinctive research and development culture.


Action research Democratic dialogue Development coalition Development organization Labor market parties 


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Further Reading

  1. As seen above, Gustavsen has contributed to the development of a rich supporting literature. This final section includes a short list of reference books that enables readers to further their interests.Google Scholar
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  3. Fricke, W., & Totterdill, P. (Eds.). (2004). Action research in workplace innovation and regional development. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
  4. Greenwood, D., & Levin, M. (Eds.). (1998). Introduction to action research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Greenwood, D., & Levin, M. (Eds.). (2007). Introduction to action research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
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  7. Gustavsen, B. (1985). Workplace reform and democratic dialogue. Economic and Social Democracy, 6, 461–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of action research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of action research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Working Life and InnovationUniversity of AgderGrimstadNorway
  2. 2.Department of Skill and TechnologyLinnaeus UniversityVäxjöSweden
  3. 3.Kingston Business SchoolKingston UniversityLondonUK

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