"100 women and 1000 more": Jeanne Mengis
Institutional Communication Service
16 December 2019
Director of the USI Institute of Marketing and Communication Management and full professor in organisational communication at USI, Jeanne Mengis, is among the women chosen for the campaign “100 women and a thousand more”. Her research focuses on interdisciplinary coordination, knowledge integration and innovation processes, in particular on how the latter are shaped by communication and materiality.
She moved to Ticino from the German speaking region of Switzerland as a young student, drawn by the innovative programmes in communication launched by the newly established Università della Svizzera italiana. “Those were the first years of the Internet's breakthrough, which brought about important repercussions not only for the media and society, but also for the way people did business: the desire was to be part of a cutting-edge project and acquire the tools to understand the historical change underway” explains Mengis. After many work experiences in Zurich and research assignments at the University of St. Gallen, Harvard University and Boston University, she decided to cross the Atlantic and the Alps again and experience first-hand the intercultural nature of our country and its linguistic regions. Though it is relatively small, "Ticino bears a unique sense of openness and freedom," - continues Mengis, - "I find that there are some features intrinsic to the territory that in the past, for example, have led artists and idealists to find in the Swiss Italian-speaking region the right place for utopian projects such as those developed at the beginning of the 20th century on Monte Verità. Innovation often take place at the 'margins', where the search for interaction and interconnection with the outside world is more active and intense and achievements are less obvious". For a researcher who studies organisations from an innovative perspective, the prefect place is somewhere that can somehow be defined "off center”.
Mengis investigates how communication and materiality shape organisational processes. She then breaks away from a "dematerialised " vision of communication, focused uniquely on language and discourse, shifting her attention to how communicative practice is materially supported, for example through artifacts, the body, and space. Mengis then examines private companies and public organisations and brings to light concrete examples of how communication is both a material and relational practice: "we are observing how perfumers develop a new fragrance and how a job so closely linked to the senses, body and emotions is supported by continuous conversations that seek to express this olfactory richness during the development process". With a broader approach, Mengis also investigates large construction projects: "we analyse how the various actors involved in the project (cities, private investors, collectors, local companies) coordinate their conflicting interests and values, how these compromises take form in the construction, how the representations of future spaces feed on imagery related to previous spaces, or how representative practices in the management of a construction site affect the space created".
The relationship with her students is crucial in her line of work. Assisting them in their last semester project of the Master while they cooperate with companies is an important process. During those months students offer advice to the companies in their research - such as Lindt & Sprüngli, WWF, Postfinance, VF, Skyguide, Guess - on aspects related to internal communication, corporate social responsibility, reputation and brand extension.
Balancing an international career - Mengis is in fact an associate professor at Warwick Business School in England - and a family with two little children is a challenge that she is facing with strength and determination, as shown in her bio published on the initiative “100 women and a thousand more” webiste. In the Ticino, successful models established in other cities could be more widespread. Mengis takes as an example the experience of a colleague and friend of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston: "We had lunch at her son's daycare, located inside the factory where she worked. She could take advantege of her lunch break to see him and spend time with him. This accessibility, flexibility and permeability of facilities could also be further improved in our region, but it requires greater collaboration between educational facilities and companies, as well as a fundamental cultural change".
Read the profile of Jeanne Mengis on the initiative's website: