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An Identity Based Approach to Social Enterprise

2015

Jeffery York Tyler Wry

Social enterprise has gained widespread acclaim as a tool for addressing social and environmental problems. Yet, because these organizations integrate the social welfare and commercial logics, they face the challenge of pursuing goals that frequently conflict with each other. Studies have begun to address how established social enterprises can manage these tensions, but we know little about how, why, and with what consequences social entrepreneurs mix competing logics as they create new organizations. To address this gap, we develop a theoretical model based in identity theory that helps to explain: (1) how the commercial and social welfare logics become relevant to entrepreneurship, (2) how different types of entrepreneurs perceive the tension between these logics, and (3) the implications this has for how entrepreneurs go about recognizing and developing social enterprise opportunities. Our approach responds to calls from organizational and entrepreneurship scholars to extend existing frameworks of opportunity recognition and development to better account for social enterprise creation.

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