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Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Canada

How change agents build and sustain their professional resilience: An identity-based process perspective


This dissertation proposal analyzes the professional resilience of corporate change agents who have been formally mandated to help their organizations address mounting external demands. While there is a wider interest in resilience across levels and systems, we have paid less attention to understanding how formally appointed change agents, whom I develop as ‘sanctioned radicals’, create and sustain their professional resilience in the face of role-related adversity. Thus, I plan to undertake an abductive qualitative inquiry, investigating the professional resilience processes of corporate sustainability professionals, as they help their organizations respond to outside pressures, such as climate change, resource scarcity, and mass inequality. My early findings, based upon 45 first-round interviews with sustainability change agents, suggest that these actors rely upon their individual and collective identities to cultivate their resilience. Through continued data collection and analysis, my dissertation aims to contribute to theory in professional resilience, change agency, identity, and sustainability.


Sara is a PhD Candidate in Management and Organizations at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business. She is interested in resilience, identity, meaning-making, and corporate sustainability. As a qualitative researcher, her work is both problem-centered and process-oriented. Sara's dissertation explores the roles of identity and meaning-making in shaping how corporate change agents – particularly those working in sustainability – build and sustain their professional resilience as they seek to effect systemic transformation within the dominant structures of their organizations. In addition to this work, Sara is also involved in projects examining how corporate executives draw upon on their personal and professional identities to broaden their view of what is considered strategic, and to prioritize societal and ecological issues in their organization’s strategizing activities.

Sara holds an MPhil in Organizational Theory from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, and a BBA in Organizational Behaviour from Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University.

Sara Graves

Sara Graves