Our final contribution to the Dialogic Accounting series, is Nivea Blackburn's abstract on the challenges of accounting information systems (AIS) design in increasingly pluralistic organisational and societal environments.
For further information about the study, please contact Nivea at Nivea.Blackburn@gmail.comDesigners’ Perspectives on SEA Information Systems and Stakeholder Engagement: An Interpretivist StudyThis study explores the challenges of accounting information systems (AIS) design in increasingly pluralistic organisational and societal environments. Rather than a single, relatively well-defined user with one main objective, accountants are increasingly expected to address the needs of multiple users with different social, political and cultural perspectives. This is particularly the case in areas like social and environmental accounting (SEA) which attempt to grapple with relatively new ideas around sustainability reporting, ethical investment, participatory development studies, indigenous resource management, and the like. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the idea of “stakeholder engagement” to help ensure high quality and relevant SEA that meets the needs of a wide range of actual and/or potential users. Prior research has highlighted a theory/practice schism in this area. There is widespread agreement that stakeholder engagement in SEA is a “good thing” and the practice is promoted in academic and professional literature (e.g. by the Global Reporting Initiative). However, it has proved controversial in terms of both its conceptualisation and operationalisation. SEA researchers report that stakeholders are often not “engaged” in practice or, where they are, “stakeholders” are defined narrowly and/or their input is not taken seriously. Prior studies have considered the perspectives of managers and, to a lesser extent, stakeholders on these matters. However, very little is known about how IS designers go about designing IS systems for SEA and how (if at all) they incorporate ideas about stakeholder engagement in their practice. This study seeks to address this gap. Through a series of semi-structured interviews with IS designers and involvement in a participatory learning and action research group, it aims to contribute: (a) to a better understanding of the reported theory/practice schism; and (b) to the development of IS for SEA that better meets the needs of those working in pluralistic environments. This study is interdisciplinary in approach and a further key aim is to show how ideas from the IS literature could be used to develop SEA theory and practice, particularly in relation to the aim of designing dialogic AIS.