Environmental management and organisations
Environmental management and organisations

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8.2 Defining ‘organisation’

The Oxford English Dictionary offers the following definition of an organisation:

An organized body of people with a particular purpose, [such] as a business, government department, charity, etc.

OED (2013)

This definition is probably one that resonates with some of your answers to Activity 8. It is a useful starting point in thinking about organisations because it immediately draws attention to several important characteristics of an organisation. Let me explain further.

First, an organisation consists of people. An organisation is not defined by a building or a website or a product or some other representative item. They might be aspects of an organisation and evidence of its functions and activities, but fundamentally, an organisation is a group of people.

Second, it notes that purpose is important and an organisation is defined by reference to its purpose.

Third, some form of organisation or structure is present within an organisation – which is something I may have missed in my answer to Activity 8

Finally, the dictionary definition also reminds us that organisations do not equate solely to business. A family, school, charity, government or even a terrorist group can also be organisations.

Whatever shape or size, all societies have organisations of some kind or another, and almost everyone engages with some kind of organisation every day. Even in the remotest location on Earth, it is virtually impossible to avoid organisations – turning on a radio (built by an organisation) to listen to a radio broadcast (produced by an organisation), or obtaining a global position signal (GPS) using some kind of equipment marks an engagement of some kind with organisations of some sort.

Described image
Figure 4 The reach of organisations: Antarctica and New York

In addition to geographic coverage, the scale of organisations can range from micro scale partnerships between two people, increasing in size to families, communities and global enterprises. The dictionary definition is a pointer that organisations are entwined in the lives of individuals, communities and societies, and thus the local and wider global environment.

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