Coopted! Mission Drift in a Social Venture Engaged in a Cross-Sectoral Partnership

  • Ester BarinagaEmail author
Original Paper


Social entrepreneurship research highlights the collaborative nature of social entrepreneurial efforts. Further, acknowledging the embeddedness of social ventures in the wider socio-economic and cultural context, the literature stresses the need to move our analysis from the micro-level of intra-organisational practices to the meso-level of inter-organisational dynamics. To answer to these calls, the article engages Fligstein’s and McAdam’s theory of strategic action fields (SAF) to investigate the dynamics of the inter-organisational collaborative work of social ventures. Empirical material comes from the efforts of a social venture to scale up to a new city through developing a cross-sectoral collaboration with the city administration. Findings indicate the risk of mission drift that weaker partners in SAFs run when collaborating with incumbent actors. In this doing, the study illustrates how a meso-level analysis can further our understanding of social entrepreneurial ventures in particular, and cross-sectoral partnerships in general.


Social venture Cross-sectoral partnership Strategic action field Institutional order Collaboration 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author founded and still chairs the social venture that is the case of study. It is however part of the interventionist methodologies that are increasingly advocated within (social) entrepreneurship studies. This is reflected upon in the methodology section.

Supplementary material

11266_2018_19_MOESM1_ESM.docx (8 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 9 kb)


  1. Austin, J. E., & Seitanidi, M. M. (2012). collaborative value creation: A review of partnering between nonprofits and businesses. Part 2: Partnership processes and outcomes. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 41(6), 929–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Austin, J., Stevenson, H., & Wei-Skillern, J. (2006). Social and commercial entrepreneurship: Same, different, or both? Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 30, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aygören, H. (2014). Research in social entrepreneurship: From historical roots to future routes. In P. H. Phan, J. Kickul, S. Bacq, & M. Nordqvist (Eds.), Theory and empirical research in social entrepreneurship. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  4. Bacq, S., & Janssen, F. (2011). The multiple faces of social entrepreneurship: A review of definitional issues based on geographical and thematic criteria. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 23, 373–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barinaga, E. (2012). Overcoming inertia: The social question in social entrepreneurship. In D. Hjorth (Ed.), Handbook on organizational entrepreneurship (pp. 242–256). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barinaga, E. (2013). Politicising social entrepreneurship: Three social entrepreneurial rationalities towards social change. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 4(3), 347–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barinaga, E. (2017). Tinkering with space: The organizational practices of a nascent social venture. Organization Studies, 38, 937–958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Battilana, J., Leca, B., & Boxenbaum, E. (2009). How actors change institutions: Towards a theory of institutional entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Annals, 3(1), 65–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Benford, R. D., & Snow, D. A. (2000). Framing processes and social movements: An overview and assessment. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 611–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bishop, S., & Waring, J. (2016). Becoming hybrid: The negotiated order on the front line of public–private partnerships. Human Relations, 69(10), 1937–1958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brewer, J., & Hunter, A. (1989). Multimethod research: A synthesis of styles. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Bruneel, J., Moray, N., Stevens, R., & Fassin, Y. (2016). Balancing competing logics in for-profit social enterprises: A need for hybrid governance. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 7(3), 263–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Calas, M. B., Smircich, L., & Bourne, K. A. (2009). Extending the boundaries: Reframing “Entrepreneurship as social change” through feminist perspectives. Academy of Management Review, 34(3), 552–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Caroli, M. G., Fracassi, E., Maiolini, R., & Carnini Pulini, S. (2018). Exploring social innovation components and attributes: A taxonomy proposal. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 9(2), 94–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cornforth, C. (2014). Understanding and combating mission drift in social enterprises. Social Enterprise Journal, 10(1), 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Curtis, T. (2008). Finding that grit makes a pearl: A critical re-reading of research into social enterprise. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 14(5), 276–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dacin, M. T., Dacin, P. A., & Tracey, P. (2011). Social entrepreneurship: A critique and future directions. Organization Science, 22, 1203–1213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dacin, P. A., Dacin, M. T., & Matear, M. (2010). Social entrepreneurship: Why we don’t need a new theory and how we move forward from here. Academy of Management Perspectives, 24(3), 37–57.Google Scholar
  19. Daskalaki, M., Hjorth, D., & Mair, J. (2015). Are entrepreneurship, communities, and social transformation related? Journal of Management Inquiry, 24(5), 419–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Di Domenico, M. L., Haugh, H., & Tracey, P. (2010). Social bricolage: Theorizing social value creation in social enterprises. Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, 34, 681–703.Google Scholar
  21. Douglas, H. (2015). Designing social entrepreneurship education. International Journal of Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 3(5), 362–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Drayton, W. (2002). The citizen sector: Becoming as entrepreneurial and competitive as business. California Management Review, 44(3), 120–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Easter, S., & Dato-On, M. C. (2015). Bridging ties across contexts to scale social value: The case of a vietnamese social enterprise. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 6(3), 320–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ebrahim, A., Battilana, J., & Mair, J. (2014). The governance of social enterprises: Mission drift and accountability challenges in hybrid organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 34, 81–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eisenhardt, K. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fayolle, A., & Matlay, H. (2009). Social entrepreneurship: A multicultural and multidimensional perspective. In A. Fayolle & H. Matlay (Eds.), Handbook of research on social entrepreneurship (pp. 1–13). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  27. Fligstein, N., & McAdam, D. (2010). Toward a general theory of strategic action fields. Sociological Theory, 29(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fligstein, N., & McAdam, D. (2012). A theory of fields. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gartner, W. B. (1989). “Who is an entrepreneur?” Is the wrong question. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 13, 47–68.Google Scholar
  30. Gartner, W. B. (2016). Anecdotes of destiny. In D. B. Audretsch & E. E. Lehmann (Eds.), The Routledge companion to the makers of modern entrepreneurship (pp. 130–145). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Geertz, C. (2000). Available light: Anthropological reflections on philosophical topics. Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  32. Gibson-Graham, J. K., & Roelvink, G. (2013). Social innovation for community economies: How action research creates ‘other worlds’. In D. MacCallum & F. Moulaert (Eds.), The international handbook on social innovation: Collective action, social learning and transdisciplinary research (pp. 454–465). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  33. Henry, C. (2015). Doing well by doing good: Opportunity recognition and the social enterprise partnership. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 6(2), 137–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johannisson, B. (2011). Towards a practice theory of entrepreneuring. Small Business Economics, 36(2), 135–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johansson, H., Arvidsson, M., & Johansson, S. (2015). Welfare mix as a contested terrain: Political positions on government—Non-profit relations at national and local levels in a social democratic welfare state. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26(5), 1601–1619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kalantaridis, C. (2014). Institutional change in the Schumpeterian-Baumolian construct: Power, contestability and evolving entrepreneurial interests. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development: An International Journal, 26(1–2), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kickul, J., Griffiths, M. D., & Gundry, L. (2009). Innovating for social impact: Is Bricolage the catalyst for change? In A. Fayolle & H. Matlay (Eds.), Handbook of research on social entrepreneurship (pp. 232–251). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  38. Light, P. (2009). Social entrepreneurship revisited. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 7(3), 21–22.Google Scholar
  39. Mair, J., & Martí, I. (2006). Social entrepreneurship research: A source of explanation, prediction, and delight. Journal of World Business, 41, 36–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mair, J., Mayer, J., & Lutz, E. (2015). Navigating institutional plurality: Organizational governance in hybrid organizations. Organization Studies, 36(6), 713–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Milbourne, L., & Cushman, M. (2013). From the third sector to the big society: How changing UK government policies have eroded third sector trust. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 24, 485–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Milbourne, L., & Murray, U. (2011). Negotiating interactions in state-voluntary sector relationships: Competitive and collaborative agency in an experiential workshop. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 22, 70–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Montgomery, A. W., Dacin, P. A., & Dacin, M. T. (2012). Collective social entrepreneurship: Collaboratively shaping social good. Journal of Business Ethics, 111, 375–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nemec, J., Klimovský, D., Meričková, B., & Svidroňová, M. (2017). Co-creation as a social innovation in delivery of public services at local government level. In E. Schoburgh & R. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of research on sub-national governance and development (pp. 281–303). Hershey: IGI Global.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Newth, J., & Woods, C. (2014). Resistance to social entrepreneurship: How context shapes innovation. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 5(2), 192–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nicholls, A. (2008). Social entrepreneurship: New models of sustainable social change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Pache, A. C., & Santos, F. (2013). Inside the hybrid organization: Selective coupling as a response to competing institutional logics. Academy of Management Journal, 56(4), 972–1001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Palmås, K. (2012). Re-assessing Schumpeterian assumptions regarding entrepreneurship and the social. Social Enterprise Journal, 8(2), 141–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Polkinghorne, D. (1983). Methodology for the human sciences. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  50. Quinn, J. B. (1980). Strategies for change. Homewood, IL: Dow-Jones Irwin.Google Scholar
  51. Reay, T., & Hining, C. R. B. (2009). Managing the rivalry of competing institutional logics. Organization Studies, 30(6), 629–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sarasvathy, S. D., & Venkataraman, S. (2011). Entrepreneurship as method: Open questions for an entrepreneurial future. Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, 35(1), 113–135.Google Scholar
  53. SCB (Statistiska Centralbyrån). (2015). Integration—Med fokus på 15 stadsdelar. Örebro: SCB-Tryck.Google Scholar
  54. Seelos, C., Mair, J., Battilana, J., & Dacin, M. T. (2011). The embeddedness of social entrepreneurship: Understanding variation across local communities. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 33, 333–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Selsky, J. W., & Parker, B. (2005). Cross-sector partnerships to address social issues: Challenges to theory and practice. Journal of Management, 31(6), 849–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith, B. R., & Stevens, C. E. (2010). Different types of social entrepreneurship: The role of geography and embeddedness on the measurement and scaling of social value. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 22(6), 575–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sonnino, R., & Griggs-Trevarthen, C. (2013). A resilient social economy? Insights from the community food sector in the UK. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development: An International Journal, 25, 272–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant observation. Orlando, FL: Harcourt College Publishers.Google Scholar
  59. Steyaert, C. (2011). Entrepreneurship as in(ter)vention: Reconsidering the conceptual politics of method in entrepreneurship studies. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development: An International Journal, 23, 77–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sud, M., VanSandt, C. V., & Baugous, A. M. (2009). Social entrepreneurship: The role of institutions. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 201–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Swedberg, R. (2006). Social entrepreneurship: The view of the young Schumpeter. In C. Steyaert & D. Hjorth (Eds.), Entrepreneurship as social change (pp. 21–34). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  62. Swedberg, R. (2009). Schumpeter’s full model of entrepreneurship: Economic, non-economic and social entrepreneurship. In R. Ziegler (Ed.), An introduction to social entrepreneurship: Voices, preconditions, contexts (pp. 77–106). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  63. Tapsell, P., & Woods, C. (2010). Social entrepreneurship and innovation: Self-organization in an indigenous context. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 22(6), 535–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Townsend, D. M., & Hart, T. A. (2008). Perceived institutional ambiguity and the choice of organizational form in social entrepreneurial ventures. Entrepreneurship Theory Practice, 32, 685–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Tracey, P., Phillips, N., & Jarvis, O. (2011). Bridging institutional entrepreneurship and the creation of new organizational forms: A multilevel model. Organization Science, 22, 60–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Trivedi, C., & Stokols, D. (2011). Social enterprises and commercial enterprises: Fundamental differences and defining features. Journal of Entrepreneurship, 20(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Van de Ven, A. H. (2007). Engaged scholarship: A guide for organizational and social research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Vermeulen, F., Minkoff, D. C., & Meer, T. (2016). The local embedding of community-based organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 45(1), 23–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Voorberg, W. H., Beckers, V. J. J. M., & Tummers, L. G. (2015). A systematic review of co-creation and co-production: Embarking on the social innovation journey. Public Management Review, 17(9), 1333–1357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wacquant, L. (2007). Territorial stigmatization in the age of advanced marginality. Thesis Eleven, 91, 66–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Politics and PhilosophyCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark

Personalised recommendations