About the Summit

The 2019 Global Business Anthropology Summit was held in New York City at Fordham University, May 29-30, 2019. The Summit brought together an international group of practitioners and scholars to reflect upon future directions for the field, training priorities for the next generation, and ways to strengthen our global networks – all of which will enhance the value of anthropology in business.


Proceedings of the 2019 Global Business Anthropology Summit

The second Global Business Anthropology Summit was held May 28-29, 2019 at Fordham University in New York City. The Summit brought together 160 industry practitioners and academic scholars to build upon the work of the 2018 Summit. The 2019 Summit was explicitly and emphatically forward thinking and action oriented to advance anthropological ideas in business. Its broad aims were to (1) advance thinking on the value of anthropological perspectives in business; (2) generate ways to spread appreciation of our work to academics, students, industry leaders, and the general public; and (3) build community among scholars and practitioners. The Summit’s plenary panels and workshops demonstrated how anthropologists penetrate nearly every domain of business and are most adept at handling issues that are humanistic and complex. Throughout the two days, the Summit acknowledged the need to continue to grow the demand for anthropologists in business.

Video: Summit Day 1 Opening and Panels 1 and 2

Panel 1: What is Business and Organizational Anthropology in the 21st Century?

Moderator: Melissa Fisher

Panelists: Rachel Laryea, Grant McCracken, Gillian Tett, Christina Wasson, Caitlin Zaloom

The changing conditions of our world – the rise of the knowledge economy, the globalization and localization of business, as well as financial and environmental crises – are reshaping the meaning and role of business and organizational anthropology. This panel will explore different types of contemporary anthropological engagements with business and organizations, while simultaneously investigating their overlaps. It will address a number of questions: What exactly is business and organizational anthropology in the 21st Century? What are the similarities and differences between an anthropology of business vs. the anthropology for business? What are the relationships between anthropologists and their interlocutors (e.g., clients) in the field of business, and how do these relationships shape the production of knowledge, writing, strategy making, and/or product design? And finally, how might business anthropologists forge partnerships in the future to build and extend business anthropology — as an academic, “commercial” and/or ethically sustainable practice?

Panel 2: Anthropology at Work: Using our Toolkit to Tackle the Toughest Business Challenges

Moderator: Derek Newberry

Panelists: Turi McKinley, Kaylie Wilson, Tom Maschio, Martha Bird

After decades spent in the trenches working with some of the world’s largest corporations, the question: “What can anthropologists do for business?” is no longer a speculative one. Practitioners have helped Fortune 500 clients and employers better connect with their customers, engage employees, and rethink their strategies in increasingly complex market environments. However, most business anthropologists have been doing this work in isolation from each other, with no community of fellow-travelers with whom they can share insights, tools, and techniques, particularly outside of their own professional niche. This panel brings together experts from a wide range of sectors—management consulting, design, tech, and human capital—to build a common understanding about how we can apply our craft successfully in diverse business contexts. Our goals will be to: (1) share success stories and identify commonalities in how anthropologists are able to add value in the workplace; (2) identify ways to communicate this value effectively to clients and employers; and (3) share ideas on how to build effective networks of anthropologists across industry boundaries to continue building a knowledge base of practical tools and techniques.

Workshop Presentations

What Business Anthropology Can Learn from Behavioral Economics

Facilitators: Patricia Sunderland & Sris Chatterjeev

(Re)Defining the Value of Anthropology in Business

Facilitators: Susan Kresnicka & Karis Eklund

The TL;DR of UX Research

Facilitators: Jennie Doberne & Louise Beryl

Designing and Starting Your Practice

Facilitators: Sabrina N Scott & Matt Artz

Diversity Doublethink: Policy Myths and Performance Rituals

Facilitators: Melissa Fisher & Patricia Ensworth

2019 Final Report