Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Election of CSEAR Executive Council and Directorship of CSEAR

The worldwide CSEAR community has been working to establish a simple and effective governance structure to support it into the future. This comprises: The CSEAR Council, The Committee of International Associates and the Directorship of CSEAR. (In addition there is the SEAJ Editorial Board which is a sub-committee of the Council).

CSEAR Council:

In the recent election we received 15 nominations for the 10 positions on the CSEAR Council. The following members of CSEAR have been elected to the Council.

 Nola Buhr (Canada)  Jesse Dillard (USA)
Charles Cho (France)
John Ferguson (UK)
Massimo Contrafatto (Italy)
Matias Laine (Finland)
Carmen Correa Ruiz (Spain)
Robin Roberts (USA)
Colin Dey (UK)
Ian Thomson (UK):
Convenor of Council

The new Council voted for Ian Thomson as Convenor of the group, and he has accepted the position.

Many thanks to all CSEAR members for taking part in this election, and in particular for those members who put themselves forward for the new Council.

International Associates Committee:

The current members are:

 Australia: Nick Barter and Cornelia Beck New Zealand: Markus Milne
Austria: Christine Jasch
Portugal: Teresa Eugénio
Brazil: Aracéli Cristina de S. Ferreira
Spain: Carlos Larrinaga
Canada: Michelle Rodrigue
UK: Rob Gray
France: Charles Cho: Chair of Committee
USA: Den Patten
Italy: Ericka Costa
Zimbabwe: Rodney Ndamba

Directorship of CSEAR:

The Council has also confirmed that it has appointed Jan Bebbington and Lorna Stevenson from the University of St Andrews to act as co-Directors of CSEAR from now on.

Finally - a huge vote of thanks and appreciation to Rob Gray for his enormous contribution to the development of CSEAR over the last twenty years or so. The 2013 CSEAR UK conference in St Andrews will include a special day of events and activities aimed at recognising and celebrating Rob's remarkable achievements.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Dialogic accounting: how to get involved

Are you interested in learning more about dialogic accounting? Would you like to participate in some of the online participatory learning and action research activities linked to this project? 

Farzana, Sendirella and Nivea will be setting up an online participatory learning and action (PLA) research group later this year. They are seeking participation from a range of individuals – including SEA academics, interpretive and critical theory researchers from other disciplines, and potential beneficiaries of the research such as NGOs, activists, trade unions and other civil society participants. 

If you are interested in participating in this PLA, please contact 
Overall, the project’s goal is to help open accounting to critical scrutiny.  Many academics, lay communities, and policy-makers take accounting for granted.  They treat it as a “black box”, accepting without question the supposedly neutral methods by which it “accounts”.  The group hopes that its research will help to both challenge and redress these mistaken assumptions.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Dialogic Accounting: Perspectives on SEA Information Systems & Stakeholder Engagement

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.

Designers’ Perspectives on SEA Information Systems and Stakeholder Engagement: An Interpretivist Study
This 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.

For further information about the study, please contact Nivea at

Friday, 13 July 2012

Dialogic Accounting: Microfinance & women's empowerment

Farzana Tanima's study explores competing economic and social logics and their implications for accounting/accountability systems through a participatory action research case study on microfinance and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.

Here's an abstract of her research

Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment in Bangladesh: A Study of Competing Logics and Their Implications for Accounting and Accountability Systems

This study seeks to explore the issue of microfinance and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh, and its implications for accounting and accountability systems. This is a politically contentious topic.  There are debates about what exactly “women’s empowerment” means, how it fits with the other stated objectives of microfinance, how the success of microfinance should be evaluated, whether or not women are actually being empowered through microfinance initiatives, and concerns about the accountability of microfinance institutions (Kilby, 2006; Mayoux, 2002; Rahman, 1999).  My study examines these controversies drawing and building on Mayoux (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002) and others’ work on the “competing logics” evident in microfinance theory and practice. In particular, it aims to compare and contrast “economic/commercial” and “social” logics and explore their implications for the way accounting and accountability systems are conceptualised and operationalised.  In recognition of the dominance of economic/commercial logics in traditional accounting, it also responds to calls to develop more multi-dimensional accountings and ways of operationalising proposals for more social accountability (Bebbington et al., 2007a,b; Brown, 2009; Dillard and Roslender, 2011; Dillard and Yuthas, forthcoming; Kilby, 2006, 2011; Kindon et al., 2007; Mayoux, 2002; Molisa et al., forthcoming).  Through a participatory action research case study, it focuses on the potential of dialogic accounting and accountability systems to address some of the problems and challenges identified in both the gender and development studies and accounting literatures.

If you are interested in learning more about Farzana's research, please email:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Dialogic Accounting: Online social movements & Accounting practices

Sendirella George’s research focuses on exploring how dialogic accounting might both learn from and contribute to the role of social movements in civil society and their interactions with corporations, as producers of “counter-accounts”, utilising online research methods.   

Accounting for the Other by the Other: Exploring Online Social Movement Counter-Accounting Practices

This study explores social movements (SMs) and the practice of “counter-accounting”.  Normative rationales for social and environmental accounting (SEA) – based around notions of fostering more accountable, responsible and transparent organisational practices – are well-established in the accounting literature.  However, critical accounting academics argue that corporate “self-governance” of SEA practice has led to a dominant “business case” interpretation which significantly delimits what is reported.  Current voluntarist corporate social and environmental reporting (CSER) is argued to be highly selective, and largely designed to cast corporations in a favourable light rather than seriously address social and environmental performance. In the absence of reliable “official” CSER, critical SEA academics have redirected their attention towards counter-accounting(s) prepared by SMs and other civil society participants as an alternative source of accountability information. Counter-accounts have also been recognised as a way of fostering dialogic accounting practices that recognise multiple users with divergent socio-political perspectives.  While SMs are viewed in the SEA literature as important players in promoting corporate accountability and fostering organisational and social change, few studies have examined how SMs themselves understand counter-accounting practices.  This study seeks to address this gap. Through a series of semi-structured interviews with SM representatives and involvement in a participatory learning and action research group, it aims to: (a) provide knowledge of SMs’ attitudes towards different forms of SEA and the role(s) SMs see SEA playing in their interactions with corporations;  (b) investigate the extent to which SMs engage in counter-accounting practices, and for what purposes; and (c) explore how  recent advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) have facilitated the production of counter-accounts.  This study is interdisciplinary in approach and a further key aim is to show how ideas from both the SMs and cyber-democracy literatures could be used to develop SEA theory and practice, particularly in relation to exploring the role of SMs and counter-accounting(s) in dialogic accounting.

If you're interested in learning more about Sendirella's research, please contact

Friday, 6 July 2012

Dialogic Accounting: Further Resources

For an elaboration of some of these ideas, see:

Brown, J. (2009). Democracy, Sustainability and Dialogic Accounting Technologies: Taking Pluralism Seriously. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 313-342.

Söderbaum, P. and Brown, J. (2010). Democratizing Economics: Pluralism as a Path Towards Sustainability. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 1185, Ecological Economics Reviews, pp.179-195.

Dillard, J. and Roslender, R. (2011). Taking Pluralism Seriously: Embedded Moralities in Management Accounting and Control Systems. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 135-147.

Söderbaum, P. and Brown, J. (2011). Pluralism and Democracy in Political Economics. International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 240-243

Dillard, J. and Brown, J. (2012). Agonistic Pluralism and Imagining CSEAR into the Future. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 3-16.

Brown, J. and Dillard, J. (forthcoming). Critical Accounting and Communicative Action:  On the Limits of Consensual Deliberation, Critical Perspectives on Accounting.

Dillard, J. and Yuthas, K. (forthcoming). Critical Dialogics, Agonistic Pluralism, and Accounting Information Systems, International Journal of Accounting Information Systems.

Molisa P, Vandangombo D, and Brown J. (forthcoming). Social and Environmental Accounting in Developing Countries – Challenges, Conflicts and Contradictions.  In: Hopper T., Tsamanyi M., Uddin S., Wickramasinghe D. (eds.). Handbook of Accounting and Development, London: Edward Elgar.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Introducing...'closer look at research'

How do we find out about research projects? How do we identify and develop research ideas? How do we engage with and encourage other researchers?

So far the CSEAR blog has provided commentary on integrated reporting and shadow accounting resources, now we'd like to introduce our 'taking a closer look at research' stream. This is an opportunity to delve deeper into research projects that are in development, underway or wrapping up. Here's a space and a community with which to share your research. 

Our first series of posts are linked to Dialogic Accounting: Taking the Challenge of Pluralism Seriously, an exciting new project led by Professors Judy Brown and Jesse Dillard. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll feature further posts about this project with contributions for researchers involved. 

If you are interested in sharing your research with the CSEAR community or writing a guest blog, please contact Shona Russell ( 

Closer look at research: Dialogic Accounting

For the first in our 'closer look at research' series, Professors Judy Brown and Jesse Dillard, along with advisor Professor Trevor Hopper, introduce the project Dialogic Accounting: the Challenge of Taking Pluralism Seriously that

aims to 'democratise' accounting by challenging its more traditional business focus and provide alternatives that recognise the needs of various stakeholder communities. 
Mainstream accounting is a narrow discipline – with strong capitalist underpinnings and a focus on corporations, meeting the information needs of financial markets and maximising shareholder wealth. Since the mid-1970s, critical accountants have argued that such a limited focus is inadequate for a profession that purports to act in the “public interest”, particularly given the profound economic, social, and environmental impacts of corporate activity. They observe that even when corporations (and, indeed, public sector organisations) and accountants report on such matters, they typically do so using business frameworks and concepts.  Moreover, in keeping with positivist models of knowledge, accountants typically portray their methods as “politically neutral” further obscuring the value judgements built into their analytic methods.   The need for new approaches is increasingly evident as accounting has become implicated in politically contentious areas like sustainability, ethical investment, labour relations and participatory development.

While Social and Environmental Accounting (SEA) academics have recognised and sought to address the shortcomings of traditional accounting, initiatives have been disappointing as issues such as corporate social responsibility are still approached predominantly through a “business case” lens, focusing on “top-down” initiatives that produce “win-wins” for business and its stakeholders.  The SEA community along with other critical commentators has become increasingly aware that SEA’s aspirations for more “democratic” and “participatory” accountings have been under-theorised, and that this has significantly impeded the development of more inclusive accounting and accountability systems that can seriously engage with multiple perspectives.

In an effort to address these issues, the Marsden project argues for the value of pluralism and conflict in a healthy democracy and outlines a conceptual framework for “dialogic accounting” that takes ideological conflicts seriously.  It draws on agonistic conceptions of democracy with the aim of better understanding the perspectives of different stakeholder groups (particularly those whose viewpoints are not well-represented in traditional accounting) and enabling them to develop accountings that accord with their own philosophical and political standpoints (e.g. by articulating demands for disclosures attuned to their decision and accountability needs).  The Marsden research, accordingly, seeks to develop new theorisations of the role of accountants, stakeholder engagement, and information systems needed to help SEA academics and others challenge traditional practices and develop new dialogic forms of accounting. The aim is not to replace one dominant form of accounting with another, but rather to foster more multi-dimensional accounting and accountability systems capable of engaging a variety of perspectives and facilitating wide-ranging discussion and debate about organisational matters.

Contact details

Professor Judy Brown

Professor Jesse Dillard:

Professor Trevor Hopper:

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Elections for CSEAR Council & International Associates

The CSEAR Council met in May to establish a straightforward governance structure for the future that is democratic and simple. It was agreed that all members/non-members of CSEAR would be contacted with information about these elections and memberships.

The major points agreed at the Council meeting were:

1. The current Director organises and oversees two elections (i) for the Council and (ii) for the Committee of International Associates. The results will be announced at the next UK CSEAR conference and communicated through the journal and newsletter.

2. The Council will normally comprise 10 members plus the current Director of CSEAR plus the current Chair of the Committee of International Associates. (Length of tenure and rotation of membership will be established by the Council)

3. The Council will be Executive and the Committee of the International Associates will act as an Upper House.

4. Council members will be elected in a full ballot of all CSEAR members on a one member three vote basis. Individuals who are members of CSEAR only will be eligible to vote. 

5. Members for election to Council may be identified by either self-nomination or by nomination by a third party (with the prior approval of the nominee). 

6. The Committee of International Associates will each be elected by a college of CSEAR members in each country (or territory) where CSEAR has individual members. Normally there will be one International Associate per country but where there are more than 50 members in a country, there will be a member for each 50 members or part thereof.

7. An International Associate for the UK will be identified as part of this process.

The first stage will be the election for CSEAR council membership. If you would like to take part please email us at csear[at] with an initial statement of interest, (which may include a manifesto or details of particular interests or suggestions for the future development of CSEAR by the Council if you are elected) by 31/07/2012.

These details have beeen emailed to all CSEAR members who will be asked to select the three candidates that they wish to support. This election will be undertaken electronically. For you to take part in these elections as either a candidate or as part of the voting community you must be a member of CSEAR for 2012 by 15/07/2012. If you have any membership queries please email Lynn Christie at lc17[at]

This has enormous implications for CSEAR, so please do check your membership and decide now if you want to be part of CSEAR’s future ruling Council.