Abstract

In their quest to create and scale social value to address social issues or catalyze social change, social ventures often pursue more than one opportunity simultaneously, which may hurt performance. At the same time, exploiting multiple opportunities may be necessary depending on the requirements of the specific social issue being solved. We propose that the performance of organizations exploiting multiple opportunities depends on the task environment in which the organizations belong. The organizational task environment is composed of other organizations that complement or compete for resources and markets with the focal organization. According to Dess and Beard (1984), organizational task environments consist of munificence, complexity, and dynamism. Given the complexity that pursuing multiple opportunities entails and the increased resource requirements, we predict that social ventures exploiting multiple opportunities will, in general, underperform those that exploit a single opportunity. Additionally, we predict that a munificent environment will weaken the negative relationship between exploiting multiple opportunities and performance. We further predict that complexity and dynamism will exacerbate this relationship. Finally, we propose another dimension of the organizational task environment, which we term environmental multiplicity. This dimension refers to the degree to which other organizations in the task environment pursue multiple opportunities. We expect environmental multiplicity to positively impact the relationship between pursuing multiple opportunities and organizational performance.

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