Distributed innovation and community control: Structuring a social enterprise community for persistent entrepreneurship

Charlene Zietsma
Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto (Canada)
Jueves, 3 Octubre 2013 - 12:00

Social enterprises often face highly uncertain environments and wicked problems at the intersection of groups with very different logics. To succeed, social enterprises often must be persistently entrepreneurial in the face of changing conditions. To date, work on social enterprises has focused primarily on definitional issues, or on how such organizations manage the divergent logics associated with creating social and economic value at the same time. There has been little work focused on the means by which social enterprises can maintain their innovative character over time, adapting and responding to key contextual changes across units and regions while maintaining internal coordination as an enterprise. We study the Seikatsu Club, a Japanese social enterprise that has been persistently entrepreneurial over its nearly 50 year history, working toward its mission in many different ways. Starting as a consumer cooperative, the Seikatsu Club has built over 600 workers collectives in a variety of socially-motivated ventures over time, with a staff complement of over 30,000, and with over $US 1 billion in turnover in 2008. Using historical analysis of organizational archives and secondary sources, combined with interviews with key informants, we examine the structures and practices that enabled persistent innovation over time. We conclude that social enterprises seeking persistent entrepreneurship must balance distributed innovation with community control. We identify structures and practices supporting these mechanisms which can potentially become design elements for social enterprises to remain persistently entrepreneurial. We argue that our findings also have practical implications for for-profit organizations seeking to remain persistently innovative.


Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación
Edificio 8E, Acceso J, Planta 4ª (Sala Descubre. Cubo Rojo)
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia | Camino de Vera s/n

Breve CV del Ponente: 

Ms. Charlene Zietsma is the Ann Brown Chair of Organization Studies at the Schulich School of Business. Prof. Zietsma's research interests focus on process research in two domains: multilevel institutional entrepreneurship and change, especially in the context of stakeholder conflicts and cognition in entrepreneurship. She has previously examined processes of opportunity recognition and business startup; organizational learning, institutional change, and inter-organizational collaboration. She has published research in the Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Journal of Business Venturing and the Journal of Management Inquiry among others. She has been awarded several best paper or symposium awards.