Abstract

One of the central challenges of social entrepreneurship is managing the tensions between social and economic missions, particularly since social entrepreneurs are often forced, even if only temporarily, to compromise one logic over the other to achieve their goals. Giving the appearance of preferring one logic may threaten a venture’s legitimacy in the eyes of stakeholders who value the sacrificed logic. To address this threat, prior research has found social entrepreneurs often engage in legitimacy maintenance activities, such as drawing upon “heroic narratives” to describe themselves and their histories. If done well, by projecting themselves as a classic “hero,” social entrepreneurs can divert attention away from the compromise, focusing stakeholders’ attention on the familiar narrative. However, if not done well, stakeholders could possibly see through the impression management efforts. Given this risk of being an overacting actor or delegitimized, what remains is an open question of how different narrative themes and structures centered on promoting a “heroic view of social entrepreneurs” shape the view of stakeholders. Specifically, whether variance in how stories are told enable social entrepreneurs to deflect attention away from areas where they must manage trade-offs.

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