Corporate Responses to Social Issues: Essays in Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility Defended on Friday, 17 February 2017

The dissertation advances scholarship in entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and organisational ethnography. In the first study, based on a 15-month study of Amsterdam-based venture, Fairphone. I argue that effectual entrepreneurial agency is co-constituted by distributed agency, the proactive conferral of material resources and legitimacy to an eventual entrepreneur by actors external to the new venture. In the context of social movement activism, an effectual network pre-committed resources to an inchoate social enterprise to produce a material artifact because it embodied the moral values of network members. I theorise the role of artifacts in effectuation theory, suggesting that a material artifact served as a boundary object, present in multiple social words and triggering commitment from actors not governed by hierarchical arrangements.

In the second study, I investigate the implementation and public justification of corporate social actions (CSA) by an MNE. I show how a CSR programme that is developed in one country to acquiesce to local institutional demands is discursively justified by another subunit of the MNE to constituents removed from the site of those practices. I suggest that the paradox approach to legitimacy management by social action—an approach that has been theorised but not empirically examined—may not lead to inherent conflict as assumed in the literature if the MNE’s cost of acquiescence in one domain is low and institutional pressure in another weak.

In the third study, I investigate how organisational ethnographers may employ self-documenting practices in modern organisations to produce compelling accounts of organisational life. I argue that modern organisations produce voluminous amounts of documentary records and digital data that organisational researchers can exploit to increase the validity of ethnographic studies and produce compelling portraits of modern organisational life. Using Fairphone as a case, I suggest that by analysing digital and physical informant interactions, organisational ethnographers can expand the notion of the ethnographic field, which has historically being conceived as a bounded, physical space to include the virtual spaces comprising social worlds that characterise modern organisational life.


Social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility, corporate social action, organisational ethnography, longitudinal case study, multinational enterprise (MNE), social movement, social networks, material artifacts, boundary objects

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