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// Assistant Professor of Social Innovation • emlyon
// Ph.D. in Sociology • Stanford


// Organizations are a major driver of institutional change and sites of actions that structure and shape cities, nations, and markets. My research explores the reciprocal relationship between organizations and society, particularly in the contexts of social innovation, the civic life of cities, and the digital transformation of the economy.



// I am an organizational sociologist and an Assistant Professor of Social Innovation at emlyon Business School.  I am also a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's program on Innovation, Equity, and the Future of Prosperity, a senior research fellow at the Civic Life of Cities Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and the Research Institute of Urban Management and Governance at WU Vienna. Previously, I was a postdoctoral scholar in sociology at the University of Chicago's Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation. I studied nonprofit management and innovation at WU Vienna (B.Sc.), organizational and economic sociology at Stanford (Ph.D. in sociology), and urban sociology at the University of Chicago (postdoc). I contribute to ASA, EGOS, AoM, SASE, and ARNOVA.



// I study how mission-driven organizations contribute and respond to calls to make cities more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainableMy empirical work is theoretically grounded in sociological institutionalism, which understands organizations' behavior as co-evolving with their external social and cultural environment. Methodologically, I combine quantitative, comparative analyses of many organizations with specific knowledge of the cases I study, taking me into the domains of qualitative interviews, experiments, and computational text analysis. I regularly build new datasets of cities, neighborhoods, and organizations to test my arguments.


// Performance-oriented management practices and professionalism have spread from businesses to nonprofit organizations. I am interested in contradictions resulting from what Max Weber described as the "disenchantment of the world," and how rational practices are actually implemented in value-oriented organizations and communities. I have examined these questions as part of the Civic Life of Cities Lab. Related work is published in NVSQ, Voluntas, and a Special Collection of papers published in Global  Perspectives.


// In the 21st century, cities bear unprecedented responsibility for fixing socio-economic inequality, building resilience to crises, and mitigating climate change. My dissertation, Cities in Action, explored how organizational infrastructures (e.g., nonprofits, businesses, and movements) and macro-institutional influences (e.g., inter-city associations and networks) shape the local capacity to act strategically and innovatively in the context of cities' climate change strategies. Cities in Action is under advance contract at Columbia University Press. Related work is published or forthcoming in the American Journal of Sociology, Urban StudiesOrganization Studies, and ARPA.


// One of the most important contemporary transformations in the institutional environment of organizations is the rise of accountability and evaluation mechanisms that expose organizations to external scrutiny. I study how organizations respond to evaluation, especially when their constituencies disagree about what matters for success. And I am curious about how open practices interact with established bureacratic structures, which are by definition averse to the public. Related work is published in Sociological Theory and the Socio-Economic Review.



Green American City: Civic capacity and the adoption of urban innovation

Brandtner, C. 2022. American Journal of Sociology 128(3).

Creatures of the state? Metropolitan counties compensated for state inaction in initial U.S. response to COVID-19 pandemic

Brandtner, C., Bettencourt, L. M. A., Berman, M. G and Stier, A. J. 2021. PLOS ONE 16(2): e0246249.

Capturing the Civic Lives of Cities: An Organizational, Place-Based Perspective on Civil Society in Global Cities

Brandtner, C. and W. W. Powell. 2022. Global Perspectives 3(1): 36408.

The Structure of City Action: Institutional Embeddedness and Sustainability Practices in U.S. Cities

Brandtner, C. and D. Suárez. American Review of Public Administration. Forthcoming.

Neoliberal governance, evaluations, and the rise of win–win ideology in corporate responsibility discourse, 1960–2010

Brandtner, C. and Bromley, P. 2021. Socio-Economic Review: 1–28.

Nonprofits as Urban Infrastructure

Brandtner, C. and C. Dunning. 2020. Pp. 271–291 in The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook, 3rd edition, edited by Walter W. Powell and Patricia Bromley. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press.

Decoupling under scrutiny: Consistency of managerial talk and action in the age of nonprofit accountability

Brandtner, C. 2021. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 50(5): 1053–78.

Spatial mismatch and youth un-employment in US cities: Public transportation as a labor market institution

Brandtner, C., Lunn, A., and Young, C. 2019. Socio-Economic Review 17(2):357–379.







// How can we leverage the power of organizational forms located on the spectrum between traditional for-profit corporations and nonprofit associations to tackle social and environmental problems? At emlyon, I teach classes on these topics, including the foundations of social innovation as well as applied problems of social entrepreneurship. I also supervise related student theses and dissertations.

// How do organizations affect urban communities and vice versa? I deepened this question at the Mansueto Institute of Urban Innovation, where the emerging field of urban science meets the foundations of urban sociology. These issues converge nicely with my passion for civil society and philanthropy as sources of social innovation, a topic debated vigorously at Stanford PACS.

// I have an avid interest in using and teaching cutting-edge methods, from computational text analysis in historical analyses to online experiments for pinning down causal mechanisms. At emlyon, I teach an applied research design class for master's students called RECAPSS. At Stanford, I offered statistical software consulting for undergraduate and graduate students.




// I am grateful for my collaborators in Europe and the United States. If you are looking for a reference, these people can probably tell you all about me. Walter W. Powell, Krystal Laryea, Aaron Horvath, and many others are my collaborators on the Civic Life of Cities. At Stanford, I have also worked with Patricia Bromley, Michelle Jackson, and Cristobal Young, among others. Outside Stanford, I have worked with Markus Höllerer (UNSW), Martin Kornberger (University of Edinburgh), Renate E. Meyer (WU, CBS), David Suárez (U of Washington), Amanda Sharkey (ASU), and Patrick Bergemann (UC Irvine). With Juan Pedroza (UCSC), I once submitted a tiramisu titled Problem of Embreadedness to Stanford's annual dessert competition.


// The people who told me to finish my dissertation are Walter W. Powell (Stanford GSE, chair), Xueguang Zhou (Stanford Sociology), and Sarah A. Soule (Stanford GSB).

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