Strategizing Grand Societal Challenges in the Maasai Mara: international business and local communities

Photo Anton Gammelgaard
Karen Blixen Camp, Jerome Osoro and

A practice-theoretical study on the co-evolution of international businesses’ and local communities’ strategies.


Associate Professor Toke Bjerregaard, Department of Management, Aarhus University

Postdoctoral Fellow Sebastian Öttl, Department of Management, Aarhus University


As part of the Maasai Mara Science and Development research network, Associate Professor Toke Bjerregaard and PostDoc Sebastian Öttl are about to realize a study on how international firms and local communities strategically address grand societal challenges in the Mara. 

Given the increasing presence of international tourism and hospitality firms in the Mara, the study is specifically interested in these firms’ sustainability strategies. Often relying on conservation-based eco-tourism as a business model, international firms however depend on the Mara’s communities to participate in their efforts to tackling wicked ecological, social and economic problems. Therefore, the study also explicitly considers local communities’ strategies and how they co-evolve with those realized by international firms. 

Rooted within a theory-of-practice approach, the study understands these strategies and their co-evolution as a continuous social accomplishment and therefore analyzes strategic activities and practices by actors involved in the processes of strategy making. By decentralizing the “what” of formalized strategies, such an approach can focus on the “how” and draw a rich picture of the underlying processes and practices - critical for effectively addressing grand societal challenges. 

The above described study stretches over a period of approximately one year. In terms of data collection in the Maasai Mara, the researchers currently plan for two, potentially three field trips. The first, exploratory phase should be realized during a two-week fieldtrip during October-November 2018. In cooperation with local partners, Sebastian Öttl is planning for a number of meetings with international tourism firms and conservancy representatives both in Nairobi and in the Mara.

A second, refined phase is to follow in spring 2019 and potentially to be complemented by a third trip later in 2019, depending on the insights generated by the two previous field trips and the advancement of data analysis. First results are to be expected and distributed by fall 2019.