Engaging with the Total oil corporation in Myanmar: the impact of dialogue as a tool for change towards greater conflict sensitivity

  • Francesca Cerletti

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis explores whether dialogue between a company and a non-profit organisation (NPO) can influence a company’s way of working towards being more conflict sensitive. As a case-study I analysed the dialogue between the French oil and gas company, Total S.A. (Total), and the US based NPO, CDA Collaborative Learning Projects (CDA) relating to the company’s operations in Myanmar/Burma.

    The objectives of the research were to ascertain if dialogue had a positive impact, and if so, what it was about the dialogue that enabled change, what was the process of change that could be observed and how embedded such change was.

    Drawing on post-modernism, systems thinking and complexity thinking, I have built on organisational change, conflict transformation, dialogue and cross-sector partnership literature to examine the role of dialogue as an enabler of change. While highlighting parallels in the discourses, I analyse the process and degree of change within the company through two conflict transformation models, one by Lederach (1997) and the other byLederach, Neufeld and Culbertson (2007), which I feel best synthesise these parallels. The research is a longitudinal case-study (2002-2012), based on semi-structured interviews and document analysis.

    The study adds to the limited academic research on conflict sensitivity in general, and on the implications for a company’s way of working in particular. Although I find that within the business sector, the notion of conflict sensitivity is assumed in the wider concept of corporate social responsibility, noteworthy is the relevance of dialogue in change processes. Dialogue is an essential enabler as it sparks transformational levers also recognised in the literature reviewed. However it is not sufficient. The research illustrates that the dialogue between CDA and Total has played a critical role in facilitating a shift in the company’s way of working, with the contribution of other influences at play. As such, I draw attention to the complexity of the change process and discuss the current nature of the drivers of change within Total.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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