Organizing for social change and innovation: Challenges and opportunities of organizations

Janina Klein, Katerina Gonzalez, Ignacio Pavez, Boram Do

Research output: Contribution to JournalMeeting AbstractAcademic


A diverse range of organizations, encompassing for-profit organizations, social enterprises, non-profit and public organizations, are driven by a strong social mission to resolve societal challenges and drive social change. Such organizing necessarily involves navigating complexity in the form of potentially competing values (e.g., Gehman, Trevino & Garud, 2012), institutional logics, organizational forms and identities (Smith & Besharov, 2019). Often, in order to balance the competing needs for innovation and stability, organizations are forced to “deviate from socially legitimate templates for organizing and thus experience unique organizing challenges” (Battilana & Lee, 2014, p. 397). Research has shown that many organizations which navigate complexity and combine opposing elements struggle to maintain a balance between their various aims (Smith, Gonin, & Besharov, 2013) and experience mission drift (Besharov & Smith, 2014; Ramus & Vaccaro, 2017), often resulting in the abandonment of social aims in favour of commercial goals (Mair, Battilana & Cardenas, 2012). Scholars have recognized that most organizations cope with a multiplicity of opposing demands – mostly social and commercial – to some degree (Shepherd, Williams & Zhao, 2019), for example with for-profit organizations increasingly engaging in the generation of social value and not-for profit organizing engaging in commercial activities to substitute their traditional sources of income. Yet our understanding of how organizations can resolve challenges and instead leverage the unique opportunities they face remains vague. Building on existing research, the aim of this symposium is to explore the challenges and opportunities of organizing from various angles. The presenters will explore key questions that individually and collectively enhance our understanding of how organizing efforts can drive social change. To accomplish this, each paper draws on different theoretical lenses and empirical contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Early online date26 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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