Legitimacy and innovation in social enterprises

Raluca Bunduchi*, Alison U Smart, Catalina Crisan-Mitra, Sarah Cooper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article examines the interrelationship between legitimacy building efforts – the different ways in which social enterprises (SEs) conform to stakeholder expectations – and types of innovation – the different approaches by which they create social and economic value through product, process and business model innovation. Using a multi-case study research design of twenty SEs in Scotland and Romania, we find that the SEs adjusted their approach to legitimacy building depending upon the types of innovation and stakeholder involved. Also, while all SEs pursued pragmatic and moral legitimacy through conforming with their stakeholders’ expectations, the type of innovation shaped the way in which they prioritised one form of legitimacy over another to deal with the tensions involved in pursuing legitimacy with heterogeneous stakeholders. This finding underscores the importance of innovation type when explaining how SEs balance the tensions involved in trying to conform to a wide range of heterogeneous stakeholders with different expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-400
JournalInternational Small Business Journal: Researching Entrepreneurship
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • legitimacy
  • social enterprise
  • social innovation


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