Prospective Sensemaking and Thinking Infrastructures in a Large-Scale Humanitarian Crisis

Marian Konstantin Gatzweiler, Matteo Ronzani

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This study explores how thinking infrastructures can orchestrate collective sensemaking in unstable and socially contested environments, such as large-scale humanitarian crises. In particular, drawing from recent interest in the role of artifacts and infrastructures in sensemaking processes, the study examines the evaluative underpinnings of prospective sensemaking as groups attempt to develop novel understandings about a desired but ambiguous set of future conditions. To explore these theoretical concerns, a detailed case study of the unfolding challenges of managing a large-scale humanitarian crisis response was conducted. This study offers two contributions. Firstly, it develops a theorization of the process through which performance evaluation systems can serve as thinking infrastructures in the collaborative development of new understandings in unstable environments. Secondly, this study sheds light on the practices that support prospective sensemaking through specific features of thinking infrastructures, and unpacks how prospective and retrospective forms of sensemaking may interact in such processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)85-112
Number of pages27
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
Early online date7 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2019


  • Prospective sensemaking
  • Humanitarian emergency
  • Crisis management
  • performance evaluation
  • Material artefact
  • Thinking infrastructure


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