Abstract

This paper explores the multiple organizational identities that social enterprises must balance in order to maintain their legitimacy, allow them to achieve their social mission, and satisfy the need to be financially viable. We consider potential differences between traditional non-profits, those that are ‘born’ with an underlying social enterprise, and those that ‘adapt’ to changing resource availability by introducing a social enterprise. Limited empirical research has examined multiple identities (Moss et al., 2010; Foreman & Whetten, 2002). We explore how these enterprises develop legitimacy given the tensions that emerge from having to address both entrepreneurial and social identities, and how this is portrayed in official communications. Conceptually, we use strategic balance theory (Deephouse, 1999) to inform social entrepreneurship theory wherein we are faced with a struggle between strategic differentiation (to reduce competition) and strategic similarity (to increase legitimacy).

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