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This study advances understanding of interpersonal feedback seeking as a relational micro-foundational process whereby social entrepreneurs proactively involve others in venturing and engage in sensemaking when this fails. Our inductive analysis of 82 interviews with 36 social entrepreneurs reveals the agency in and the plurality and precariousness of feedback seeking by identifying three distinct feedback-seeking trajectories. Feedback seeking is an identity-driven process whereby how and why social entrepreneurs seek feedback depends on their psychological closeness to the targeted social issue. Our study elucidates the relationship between identity and feedback processes and uncovers psychological distance from the social issue as a new construct in social venturing.
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Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Andreana Drencheva1
University of Sheffield
Management School
Conduit Road, Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom
+44 (0)114 222 3340
Ute Stephan
King’s College London
King’s Business School
Bush House, The Strand, London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom
Technische Universität Dresden
Work & Organisational Psychology
Zellescher Weg 17, 01062 Dresden, Germany
Malcolm G. Patterson
University of Sheffield
Management School
Conduit Road, Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom
Anna Topakas
University of Sheffield
Management School
Conduit Road, Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom
Paper accepted for publication in the JOURNAL OF BUSINESS VENTURING,
March 2021, please cite as
Drencheva, A., Stephan, U., Patterson, M.G. & Topakas, A. (2021, in press). Navigating
Interpersonal Feedback Seeking in Social Venturing: The Roles of Psychological Dis-
tance and Sensemaking. Journal of Business Venturing
1Corresponding Author.
Acknowledgements. We thank Editor Oana Branzei and the reviewers for their constructive
comments and guidance through the revision process. We are grateful to Sally Maitlis for
friendly feedback on this manuscript. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the
Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Anaheim, USA and the Babson College Entre-
preneurship Research Conference in Bodø, Norway. We thank the participants at these con-
ferences for their helpful feedback.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Navigating interpersonal feedback seeking in social venturing: The roles of
psychological distance and sensemaking
This study advances understanding of interpersonal feedback seeking as a relational micro-
foundational process whereby social entrepreneurs proactively involve others in venturing
and engage in sensemaking when this fails. Our inductive analysis of 82 interviews with 36
social entrepreneurs reveals the agency in and the plurality and precariousness of feedback
seeking by identifying three distinct feedback-seeking trajectories. Feedback seeking is an
identity-driven process whereby how and why social entrepreneurs seek feedback depends
on their psychological closeness to the targeted social issue. Our study elucidates the
relationship between identity and feedback processes and uncovers psychological distance
from the social issue as a new construct in social venturing.
Keywords: Social entrepreneurship; interpersonal feedback seeking; identity; image;
psychological distance
IFS: Interpersonal feedback seeking
OB: Organizational behavior
SE: Social entrepreneur
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Executive summary
Clinton and Sophia are founders of social ventures that develop solutions for local
communities. They both believe that seeking feedback through interpersonal interactions is
important, for instance, to co-create solutions with community members or to signal the
prosocial nature of their venturing efforts. Yet, they both struggle to get responses to feedback
requests from community members, customers, and funders. Reacting to this challenge, Clinton
and Sophia take radically different approaches. While Clinton is investing hundreds of hours
to encourage responses to feedback requests, Sophia has limited her feedback seeking.
Considering others’ input is often seen as intrinsic to social entrepreneurship, reflecting
the entrepreneurs’ prosocial motivations and the nature of the social needs they address (Zahra
et al., 2009). Consequently, research highlights the importance of integrating the input of
stakeholders (e.g., beneficiaries, customers, funders) to shape social ventures’ opportunities
(Corner and Ho, 2010), governance (Ebrahim et al., 2014), start-up performance (Katre and
Salipante, 2012), trust and networks (Smith et al., 2012), and social impact (Branzei et al.,
2018; Stephan et al., 2016). The individual or micro-level process that underpins this
integration of others’ input into the venture is interpersonal feedback seekingthe process by
which social entrepreneurs (“SEs”) like Clinton and Sophia proactively engage others to elicit
evaluative information about themselves and their ventures.
Interpersonal feedback seeking (“IFS”) is rarely examined in social entrepreneurship
research because scholars implicitly assume that others’ input is readily available for SEs (e.g.,
Muñoz et al., 2018). However, Clinton’s and Sophia’s struggles to obtain interpersonal
feedback when requested challenge this implicit assumption about feedback availability.
Equally, while IFS is seen as beneficial, not all entrepreneurs seek feedback (Katre and
Salipante, 2012), as illustrated by Sophia. This suggests that IFS may be a more difficult
process than current social entrepreneurship research suggests. In sum, we lack understanding
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
of why and how SEs first engage with others to seek feedback, what challenges they face, and
how they make sense of these challenges to navigate the IFS process.
This article addresses the following question: How do social entrepreneurs navigate the
process of interpersonal feedback seeking? We conducted an in-depth inductive study
involving 82 interviews with 36 nascent SEs. Our investigation unveils IFS as an identity-
driven process in which SEs’ psychological closeness to the social issues they target shapes
how and why SEs seek feedback, and in what ways they make sense of challenges encountered
in doing so. Psychological closeness (distance) describes individuals’ subjective experience of
whether something is close to (far away from) the self, i.e., whether it is present in their direct
experience (Liberman et al., 2007; Trope and Liberman, 2010).
SEs who addressed social issues psychologically close to them and related to their
identities sought feedback to improve their ventures’ offerings and entrepreneurial practice.
They interpreted salient challenges to their IFS as threats to how they saw themselves (i.e.,
identity threats), which led them to experiment with IFS strategies to protect their identities.
By contrast, SEs who addressed social issues psychologically distant from them and unrelated
to their identities sought feedback to establish an image as social entrepreneurs. They
interpreted challenges in IFS as threats to how they wanted to be seen by others (i.e., image
threats), which led them to experiment with IFS strategies to protect their desired image. Thus,
SEs’ sensemaking served different needs (i.e., protecting SEs’ identity or image) and shaped
different types of changes to their IFS strategies.
Our findings show that SEs’ feedback seeking can take multiple forms according to their
identities and relations to the targeted social issues. We also elaborate on the potentially
important role in social venturing of psychological distance from the social issue and consider
how it can contribute to critical aspects of SEs’ work, such as developing social change
strategies, mission drift, and mobilizing different resources.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
1. Introduction
Obtaining feedback, or evaluative information, about venture-relevant decisions and
behaviors is important for social ventures and entrepreneurs. Research suggests that social
entrepreneurs (SEs) seek and use feedback to develop opportunities (Corner and Ho, 2010;
Muñoz et al., 2018; Perrini et al., 2010), understand beneficiaries (Walk et al., 2015), build
trust (Smith et al., 2012), aid start-up performance (Katre and Salipante, 2012), and develop
social impact (Branzei et al., 2018; Stephan et al., 2016). Moreover, feedback can help social
ventures remain accountable to beneficiaries (Ebrahim et al., 2014) and counter mission drift
(Ramus and Vaccaro, 2017). At the individual level, studies of social and commercial
entrepreneurs suggests that the content of feedback received from others impacts
entrepreneurs’ identities (Conger et al., 2018; Demetry, 2017; Grimes, 2018; O’Neil et al.,
The existing research has focused on the content of feedback, yet neglected the process of
seeking feedback. The literature provides insights into the positive consequences of obtaining
feedback for social ventures and entrepreneurs, but understanding of how SEs initially seek
feedback is conceptually and empirically underdeveloped. Researchers often implicitly assume
that feedback is widely available to SEs (one exception is Katre and Salipante, 2012). This
misconception particularly limits our understanding of how SEs navigate the process of
interpersonal feedback seeking (“IFS”). IFS is the proactive interactions of SEs with other
individuals to obtain feedback about the effectiveness and appropriateness of venture-related
decisions and behaviors (building on Ashford, 1986). IFS is conceptualized as a process in
organizational behavior (“OB”) research (Grant and Ashford, 2008) but not yet examined in
its own right in social entrepreneurship research. Instead, in social entrepreneurship research
IFS emerges as a relational micro-foundation in the start-up process (e.g., Katre and Salipante,
2012; Smith et al., 2012). Consequently, what challenges SEs face and how they make sense
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
of them to navigate IFS remains unclear.
This article addresses the following research question: How do SEs navigate the IFS
process? We conducted an in-depth inductive study involving 82 interviews with 36 nascent
SEs. Our findings suggest that SEs feedback seeking is an identity-driven process that they
navigate through sensemaking patterns shaped by the psychological distance between the SE
and the targeted social issue. Psychological distance is the degree to which a social issue is
present in an SE’s direct experience of reality (Liberman et al., 2007). Some SEs directly
experience the social issues they target, such as personally suffering gambling addiction or
having a child with a medical condition that is poorly understood by schools and social
services. These social issues are a part of how SEs see and define themselves (i.e., part of their
identity). Other SEs address social issues that they have not personally experienced, such as
finding employment after imprisonment, and that are unrelated to their identities.
When SEs address psychologically close social issues, they seek feedback to improve their
offerings and entrepreneurial practice. They interpret salient IFS challenges as identity threats
and change their IFS strategies to protect their identities. Conversely, when SEs address social
issues that are psychologically distant and motivated by economic opportunities, they seek
feedback to establish a social image. They interpret salient IFS challenges as threats to how
they want to be seen (as caring social entrepreneurs), and change their IFS strategies to protect
the desired image. This key insight can be seen across the three IFS trajectories we identified:
entrepreneur-oriented and community-oriented trajectories, for SEs psychologically close to
the social issues, and opportunity-oriented trajectory, for SEs psychologically distant from
those issues. Overall, our findings show the plurality of feedback seeking with distinct
sensemaking patterns to protect identity or image, which in turn shape different types of
changes to IFS strategies.
Our findings make several contributions. First, they advance understanding of the
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
relationship between identity and feedback processes in entrepreneurship. By focusing on
proactively seeking feedback, instead of responding to it (e.g., Conger et al., 2018; Demetry,
2017; Grimes, 2018), our findings unveil the agency in and precarity of feedback processes for
entrepreneurs. Specifically, our unique focus on proactive feedback seeking as a sensemaking
process expands understanding of three aspects: the plurality of feedback seeking, what
constitutes an identity threat, and crafting an image aligned with entrepreneurs’ identities.
Second, our findings reveal surprising heterogeneity of social entrepreneur motivations
complementing the existing emphasis on prosocial motivation (e.g., Miller et al., 2012). What
is more, they introduce psychological distance from the social issue as a novel and potentially
critical construct in social venturing to better understand not just feedback seeking and
sensemaking, but also potentially processes of social change, mission drift, and resource
mobilization. Introducing psychological distance from the social issue can thus address our
limited understanding of how the social issue influences social ventures’ functioning (Mair and
Rathert, 2020) by providing a theoretical mechanism of how social issues ‘translate’ into the
experience of SEs where they then guide strategic choices and actions.
Finally, our findings have theoretical implications for the IFS stream in OB research by
introducing a new theoretical lens (sensemaking) and a new construct (role identity) for
understanding why and how individuals seek feedback differently from one another and over
time. Importantly, explicating how SEs change their IFS strategies by experimenting with the
process, content, sources, and timing of IFS complements OB research’s focus on two main
strategies of seeking feedbackdirect inquiry and monitoring (Parker and Collins, 2010)
whose use is assumed to be stable and uniform.
2. Theoretical background
Social venturing is typically defined as organizing efforts driven by concern for others and
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
enabled by working with others (Branzei et al., 2018). Social ventures pursue prosocial
objectives, such as reducing homelessness or inequality, through market mechanisms (Mair et
al., 2012). Such venturing is social in the relational processes it embeds because achieving
prosocial goals requires engagement with diverse stakeholders. Research documents the
importance of relational processes for social venturing: these ventures involve diverse
stakeholders whose input is critical for their emergence, performance, and ability to catalyze
social impact (Branzei et al., 2018; Stephan et al., 2016). For example, SEs develop new
opportunities by involving multiple stakeholders who possess different knowledge (Corner and
Ho, 2010; Katre and Salipante, 2012), bring unusual perspectives (Mongelli et al., 2017),
provide tangible resources, and increase ventures’ credibility (Di Domenico et al., 2010; Perrini
et al., 2010). These relational processes introduce social ventures to diverse stakeholders, such
as direct beneficiaries, community members and leaders, funders, collaborators, policymakers,
and customers, representing different domains and interests.
Considering the centrality of others’ input and insights in social venturing, there is
surprisingly no empirical and theoretical understanding of the micro-foundational processes of
how SEs initially engage others. Indeed, the extant literature assumes that SEs are provided
with input (e.g., Muñoz et al., 2018). However, social ventures have stakeholders with
divergent interests and privileges (Powell et al., 2018): some (e.g., funders) may be in
privileged positions to share input with SEs, while others (e.g., beneficiaries) may lack such
opportunities or capabilities (Stephan et al., 2016). Thus, to understand how others come to
inform and influence the social venture, it is essential to understand how SEs actively seek
input and make room for others involvement. One specific type of input SEs seek is
interpersonal feedback. The next three sections overview IFS in social entrepreneurship and
OB research, and explain sensemaking’s potential role in SEs navigation of the IFS process.
2.1. SEs’ IFS
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
SEs’ IFS is a proactive, bidirectional interaction between an SE and at least one other
individual, initiated by the SE to obtain self- or venture-relevant evaluative information about
the effectiveness and/or appropriateness of venture-related decisions and behaviors (adopted
from Ashford, 1986; Ilgen et al., 1979). As a specific type of evaluative information, feedback
differs from advice, which is general information on how to approach tasks, often before an
action or a decision (Phye, 1991). While SEs’ IFS has never been studied in its own right and
is sometimes labeled differently—e.g., “seeking feedback” (Katre and Salipante, 2012) or
“giving voice” (André and Pache, 2016)interpersonal interactions to solicit evaluative
information often emerge as a theme in inductive and exploratory studies of social
entrepreneurship. While not explicitly focused on IFS, such studies (Corner and Ho, 2010;
Katre and Salipante, 2012; Smith et al., 2012) offer glimpses into SEs’ IFS and show that SEs
seek interpersonal feedback from within and outside the venture and in different directions
downward (e.g., employees), horizontally (e.g., partners), and outward (e.g., community
leaders and members).
These studies suggest that IFS can play an important role in social venturing. IFS aids
conceptualizing opportunities and creating and improving offerings in new social ventures
(Katre and Salipante, 2012); improves social ventures’ capabilities to create social impact by
understanding beneficiaries’ experiences, needs, and frustrations (Walk et al., 2015); and
facilitates growing networks and building trust within and outside the venture (Katre and
Salipante, 2012; Smith et al., 2012). Thus, IFS may improve social venture performance (Katre
and Salipante, 2012) and help to avoid mission drift when scaling by giving voice to
beneficiaries (André and Pache, 2016; Ebrahim et al., 2014).
Despite these anticipated benefits from IFS, counter-intuitive findings show that not all
SEs seek feedback (Katre and Salipante, 2012). Yet, because IFS emerged inductively in
studies of other phenomena, such as venture emergence (Corner and Ho, 2010; Katre and
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Salipante, 2012), it is typically only vaguely defined and treated as a simple, one-off activity
following a single decision on whether to seek feedback. Thus, it is unclear why SEs may
refrain from IFS. OB research suggests that IFS is a process (Grant and Ashford, 2008), rather
than the simple activity conceptualized in social entrepreneurship research. It seems likely that
the complexities and challenges of this process may lead individuals to abandon IFS.
2.2. OB research on IFS
For over 30 years, OB research has quantified aspects of IFS to examine who seeks
feedback, when, and why. Recent reviews (Ashford et al., 2016) and meta-analyses (Anseel et
al., 2015) have summarized what we know about employees’ motivations for seeking feedback,
how their personalities influence IFS, and the frequency, strategies, and potential outcomes of
IFS. Overall, OB research shows that employees are motivated to improve their performance
by directly requesting interpersonal feedback or monitoring their environment for cues that
provide it (Parker and Collins, 2010). However, they are also motivated to refrain from seeking
feedback to protect their self-views and how they believe others see them (i.e., image) (Anseel
et al., 2015; Ashford, 1986; Hays and Williams, 2011). This is because individuals prefer to
maintain a consistent view of themselves (Baumeister, 1999) and are concerned about the
impressions they project to others (Ibarra, 1999). OB research reveals individuals fear that
requesting feedback could indicate lack of knowledge or competence. Consequently, studies
have examined IFS frequency with the assumption that employees seek feedback less
frequently when the perceived cost is high (Anseel et al., 2015; Hays and Williams, 2011).
The costbenefit analysis underpinning decisions to seek feedback, as suggested in OB
research, does not account for external challenges faced by SEs, the nature of SEs, and the
connections between SEs’ identities and their ventures. First, this analysis is based on
motivations to seek feedback mostly within formalized relationships, i.e. from line managers
within the employing organization (Chuang et al., 2014) or from advisory boards (Ashford et
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
al., 2018). It does not consider external challenges, which are likely to be plentiful for SEs who
seek feedback from others outside their emerging organizations and with whom they have no
formalized relationships. The lack of such relationships can translate into failed attempts at IFS.
Such external challenges can serve to “jolt” routines (Meyer, 1982), interrupting existing ways
of thinking and thereby triggering sensemaking (Weick, 1995). Second, a costbenefit analysis
with only limited choices for seeking feedback does not reflect the proactive and creative nature
of SEs, as individuals who readily assume responsibilities (Stephan and Drencheva, 2017), act
reflexively (Conger et al., 2018), and may create additional ways to seek feedback, rather than
simply refraining from IFS.
Finally, such a costbenefit analysis neglects SEs’ role identitiesthe internalized
behavioral standards related to specific roles (e.g., SE, mother) that are used to define the self
(Stryker and Burke, 2000). Thus, role identities represent a type of self-views. SEs’ role
identities are closely tied to their social ventures and can influence opportunity development
(Wry and York, 2017) and re-evaluation (Conger et al., 2018), engagement with stakeholders
(York et al., 2016), and legitimation (O’Neil and Ucbasaran, 2016). Research suggests that
social (Conger et al., 2018) and commercial entrepreneurs (Grimes, 2018) are concerned with
protecting their role identities when provided with disconfirming feedback that challenges their
ideas or disappointing scores from certification bodies. As entrepreneurs identities are closely
intertwined with their ventures, challenges in IFS will likely elicit sensemakingan
interpretive process with identity at its core (Weick, 1995) and triggered when unexpected
events challenge one’s understanding of the situation. Thus, a sensemaking lens fits the
reflective nature of SEs and can help us understand how they navigate the IFS process and
respond to external challenges in different and creative ways.
2.3. Sensemaking
Sensemaking occurs when individuals experience confusing, disruptive, or ambiguous
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
events, or if expected events do not occur. These events are salient cues that violate individuals’
expectations and raise the questions “what’s going on here?” and “what do I do next?” (Weick
et al., 2005, p.412), thus creating meaning through cycles of interpretation and action (Maitlis
and Christianson, 2014). Sensemaking is an interpretive process in which SEs (or other
individuals) provide seemingly plausible explanations for confusing situations, thereby
mobilizing action in a particular direction (Dutton et al., 1983). Thus, sensemaking involves
not only noticing and interpreting information but also acting on the revised interpretation of
the situation with experiments aiming to restore the SE’s understanding (Weick, 1988, 1995).
More specifically, sensemaking involves three core “moves” (Maitlis and Christianson,
2014). Experiences and expectations guide attention and shape what SEs pay attention to and
how they bracket cues as relevant or otherwise. The first sensemaking move is noticing an
inconsistency between expectation and reality, which can be an unexpected occurrence, a
challenge, or the absence of an anticipated event. This inconsistency interrupts existing ways
of thinking and acting and motivates SEs to (re-)interpret situations and meanings (Jay, 2013;
Smith and Besharov, 2019) as the second move. Finally, SEs test their interpretations of
situations and meanings with enactments that confirm their new understanding or prompt
further interpretation (Jay, 2013; Smith and Besharov, 2019). Thus, different SEs may
experience the same event and interpret it differently, leading to different actions.
Overall, SEs likely engage in sensemaking to navigate IFS because this process can be
ambiguous (e.g., emergent challenges), difficult (e.g., related to identity), and meaningful (e.g.,
important for outcomes) (Thomas et al., 1993). Yet, too little is known about SEs’ experiences
of IFS to understand their sensemaking patterns and navigation of the process. Explicating how
and why SEs engage in sensemaking to navigate IFS is important for understanding whether
and how SEs seek feedback and, therefore, how others’ input shapes the opportunities SEs
exploit, their ventures’ performance, and the social impact they generate. Thus, this study
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
investigates how SEs navigate the IFS process.
3. Research design
Given the limited research on SEs’ IFS, we used an inductive approach appropriate for
how questions (Edmondson and McManus, 2007) and employed previously for exploring
entrepreneurs experiences (Rouse, 2016). Our approach also follows recommendations for
studying advice-seeking by CEOsa similar population engaging in an analogous
phenomenon whose micro-foundational processes are poorly understood (Ma et al., 2019).
3.1. Participants
We selected nascent SEs as a strategic sample because IFS can play an important role given
their difficulties in developing operational social ventures (Renko, 2013). Past inductive
research pointing to IFS has also focused on nascent SEs (Corner and Ho, 2010; Katre and
Salipante, 2012). Moreover, choices and behavioral patterns early in venture development are
known to imprint and exert lasting influences on organizational strategy and performance
(Marquis and Tilcsik, 2013; Muñoz et al., 2018). Finally, researching nascent SEs minimizes
hindsight, selection, and survival biases that are salient when researching phenomena with
entrepreneurs in established organizations (Davidsson and Gordon, 2012). Overall, selecting a
theoretically rich and narrow context is appropriate for inductive theory building as it reveals
nuances that might be obscured in broader settings (Langley and Abdallah, 2011).
We recruited 36 nascent SEs from two support organizations in the United Kingdom (see
Table 1, with individual and venture pseudonyms to protect identities). The support
organizations sent an invitation email to all individuals who had requested start-up support in
the previous 12 months. We received 112 expressions of interest through a completed screening
questionnaire. All interested individuals were screened on four main criteria using questions
for identifying nascent SEs from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Terjesen et al., 2012):
(1) currently trying to start any activity, organization, or initiative with a particular social,
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
environmental, or community objective; (2) has taken active steps in the past 12 months to start
this activity, organization, or initiative; (3) generates or plans to generate revenue through
trading; and (4) has not generated a surplus for more than three consecutive months. The 75
individuals who met these criteria were invited to provide informed consent to be interviewed.
On receiving informed consent forms, we started data collection, in parallel to data analysis.
This allowed us to stop growing the sample after reaching theoretical saturation, i.e., when no
substantially different experiences were found as more data were collected from new
participants (Strauss and Corbin, 2008). Individuals who had provided consent but did not
respond to our invitation to schedule an interview (n = 24) were sent two follow-up reminders
before we moved to the next listed name.
[Insert Table 1 about here]
3.2. Data collection
Due to the interpersonal nature of IFS and our focus on SEs’ experiences, the data came
from 82 semi-structured interviews at different time points with 36 participants. We started
primary interviews with a wide scope to understand the social ventures and situate the SEs’
IFS. Next, we asked participants to describe in detail two IFS interactions from the past two
months, including their motives, decisions, methods, individuals considered or approached, and
any challenges. We also asked for details of two interactions that participants were reluctant to
engage in or instances in which they considered but refrained from IFS. By focusing on recent
IFS events we captured significant and memorable IFS interactions, mundane IFS interactions,
and those the SEs considered but could not or decided not to engage in. For example, the IFS
interactions the SEs shared ranged greatly in perceived significance and included instances of
seeking a spouse’s feedback on a blog post to seeking a potential investor’s feedback on the
legal structure of the social venture. Secondary and tertiary interviews had a more structured
approach to explore emerging themes, check data, clarify information (Gioia et al., 2012), and
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
follow up on how the SEs reflected on the IFS with their decisions and salient challenges.
We conceptualized IFS as a micro-process that starts unfolding before an observable IFS
interaction occurs and may continue unfolding afterward, as SEs take time to reflect, interpret,
and further refine their IFS strategies. By soliciting SEs’ accounts of interpretations and
decisions before specific IFS interactions and non-interactions, we gained nuanced descriptions
of why SEs sought feedback, what challenges they faced, their reflections on these challenges,
and changes to their IFS strategies. This allowed us to uniquely capture meanings,
interpretations, and enactments as experienced by the SEs (Orbuch, 1997). The accounts of IFS
decisions from their own perspective highlighted “the ambivalences, uncertainties, and angsts
that are a day-to-day reality” (Orbuch, 1997, p.461). Hence, interviewing SEs was the most
appropriate data collection approach for three reasons. First, through interviews they could
provide rich, detailed accounts of specific experiences, regardless of magnitude and outcomes.
Such evidence on IFS decisions and interpretations is not available from other data sources,
such as archival documents. Second, the accounts detailed situations in which SEs had
considered IFS but not engaged in it. This was important for understanding what challenges
they faced, how they made sense of them, and how they continued with or abandoned IFS
activities. Such considerations cannot be observed or accessed through other data collection
methods. Third, interviews are less obtrusive than observation of interpersonal interactions,
thus minimizing the researchers’ influence.
To minimize recollection and salience biases, we focused on specific, recent IFS
experiences. We emphasized the confidentiality and anonymity of data, allowing participants
to share less socially desirable information. Indeed, participants expressed high vulnerability
and angst, inconsistent with social desirability but in line with the stress and anxiety
entrepreneurs experience (Cardon and Patel, 2015). This account-based approach has been used
to study similar micro-processes, such as courageous actions at work (Schilpzand et al., 2015).
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
3.3. Data analysis
We followed common prescriptions for inductive qualitative data analysis (Corley and
Gioia, 2004; Gioia et al., 2012; Rouse, 2016; Zietsma and Lawrence, 2010). During data
collection, we engaged in parallel, iterative data analysis to explore how SEs navigated IFS.
While we describe our analysis as mostly linear for readability purposes, and highlight only
key turning points in the later stages, the process was highly iterative, moving between and
among the data, relevant literature, and emerging patterns to refine the analysis into particular
conceptual categories and distinct relationships between them (Eisenhardt, 1989).
3.3.1. Step 1: Coding for elements of the IFS process
We started with open coding to categorize raw data about the IFS process into first-order
categories that gave voice to the SEs engaged in the focal phenomenon and made their
perspective the foundation of the analysis. We coded units of meaning using “in-vivo” labels
reflecting the language used by SEs or simple phrases describing the meaning of the unit as
first-order categories (Strauss and Corbin, 2008). This stage revealed that SEs sought feedback
for diverse reasons, used many IFS strategies, encountered three distinct challenges when
seeking feedback (lack of engagement of feedback sources, lack of access to appropriate
feedback sources, and lack of time for IFS), and responded to these challenges with 11 different
types of experiments. We constantly compared each unit of meaning with the previous one in
the transcript and all units within a category to refine categorical boundaries.
As open coding continued, we also began axial coding. The first-order categories described
the key elements of SEs’ IFS experiences from their own perspective but did not reveal
theoretical explanations and relationships. To distill themes that could be theoretical elements,
we engaged in axial coding by abstracting and consolidating first-order categories into second-
order themes and aggregated dimensions, as theoretical interpretations of SEs lived
experiences (Gioia et al., 2012). At this data analysis stage, we developed initial aggregated
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
dimensions: we categorized overall decisions to seek feedback, systematized explanations of
the challenges SEs encountered when engaging in ISF, and synthesized their multiple ways of
experimenting with IFS into four types of experiments. Again, we used constant comparison to
delineate and differentiate themes and dimensions. When themes were created or changed, we
reanalyzed all transcripts based on the new themes to clarify categorical boundaries. We also
combined related themes into the same aggregated dimension and sought insights into the
relationships between dimensions.
3.3.2. Step 2: Identifying sensemaking as a mechanism to navigate the IFS process
In step 1 of the analysis, we focused on the commonalities between all SEs. For example,
all SEs neglecting the challenge of limited time for IFS, while they experienced the other two
challenges as eliciting shock, disappointment, sadness, or conflict. However, we noticed that
even when they faced the same salient challenge, SEs spoke differently about it, for example,
as to whether it reflected their own vulnerability or that of their beneficiaries. Indeed, the
challenge prompted them to reflect on their initial decisions to seek feedback and surfaced
taken-for-granted purposes for IFS. We, therefore, started to explore sensemaking
as a
mechanism through which the SEs navigated the IFS process and refined our approach to
investigate specific sensemaking patterns. During this data analysis stage, we focused on two
aspects of sensemaking: interpretation and enactment. We differentiated how the SEs
interpreted the challenges as three distinct vulnerabilities and came to view their four types of
experiments as enactments of their new understanding of the challenge and the situation. At
this stage, we dropped the challenge of limited time for IFS because it did not seem to trigger
[Insert Fig. 1 about here]
While sensemaking emerged from the data analysis, we provide an overview in the theoretical background for
ease of reading.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
3.3.3. Step 3: Coding for SE differences and comparing narratives
Next, we focused on the complete narratives of two participants Sophia and Clinton
because they experienced the same challenge yet interpreted it differently and engaged in
different experiments, despite the similarities between their social ventures in addressing local
issues. In line with the sensemaking literature’s view that experiences and expectations guide
what is noticed or neglected (Maitlis and Christianson, 2014), we sought differences in their
narratives that might explain their differing sensemaking patterns. They spoke of themselves
very differently: Sophia considered herself a serial entrepreneur engaging in her next venture,
while Clinton routinely described himself as a member of the local community that his social
venture aimed to serve. These role identities (Stryker and Burke, 2000) were also consistent
with the dominant purposes the two SEs articulated for their IFS.
At this stage, we identified that the key difference between Sophia and Clinton was
psychological distance (Liberman et al., 2007) from the social issues they targeted. While
Clinton aimed to address an issue directly experienced in his community and reality, Sophia’s
venture targeted an issue outside her direct experience. With this preliminary insight, we
reanalyzed all transcripts, focusing on founders’ start-up motivations and role identities to
capture their psychological distance from the social issue of their ventures. In this part of the
analysis, groups of SEs emerged. SEs who shared start-up motivations and role identities also
sought feedback for similar purposes, perceived similar salient challenges when seeking
feedback, and shared enactments. As Section 4 will describe, we came to understand these
sequences not as single, contained decision-making events but as three coherent trajectories
describing dominant IFS patterns.
As the importance of role identities emerged, we also reanalyzed interpretations of the
challenges, which we had labeled “vulnerabilities. Reanalyzing these interpretations led to
changing this label and splitting the category (Grodal et al., 2020) into two: identity threat,
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
whereby SEs questioned the meaning of the role they were internalizing or their fit with that
role (Petriglieri, 2011), and image threat, whereby SEs questioned the discrepancy between
their desired image and what they potentially projected. This further clarified the differences
between trajectories and reinforced the importance of psychological distance.
In the final stage of analysis, we developed descriptions of the three IFS trajectories that
captured the common elements between trajectories and distinguished the trajectories from one
another. We then identified appropriate labels for each trajectory that described how the SEs
navigated the IFS process in line with their relations to their targeted social issues.
3.4. Trustworthiness of the findings
We took several steps to ensure the trustworthiness of the findings (Lincoln and Guba,
1985). Overall, we aimed to remain close to SEs’ lived experiences and maintain theoretical
relevance through critical and challenging reflections and discussions. First, we employed an
insideroutsider team research design to balance lived experiences and theoretical relevance
(Bartunek and Louis, 1996). Accordingly, the first author coded all data and the team engaged
in regular debriefings. This allowed one team member to be close to SEs’ lived experiences
and responsible for enhancing their voices, while other members maintained an outsider
perspective to ensure theoretical relevance. During team debriefings, we reviewed interview
transcripts and discussed emerging insights, future data collection, and analysis. “Outsider
researchers raised critical questions and challenged emerging findings to clarify conceptual
boundaries, relationships between categories, and theoretical framings (Gioia et al., 2012). This
process was further enhanced by critical discussions with academic experts in IFS, social
entrepreneurship, and sensemaking. Second, during data collection, we performed several
checks through probing questions in primary interviews and conducting secondary and tertiary
interviews to confirm previously shared accounts and clarify insights. Third, we developed a
theory grounded in SEs’ lived experiences and language, while maintaining theoretical rigor
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
and parsimony (Gioia et al., 2012), by distinguishing first- and second-order categories, themes,
and aggregated dimensions (see Fig. 1). Fourth, we used member checks (Guba, 1981) by
summarizing our findings on SEs’ challenges in IFS and their approaches to addressing them
in a written report, on which participants were asked to give feedback, thereby confirming that
we had accurately captured these aspects of their lived experiences.
4. Findings
Our investigation revealed that SEs navigated the IFS process by interpreting challenges
as threats to their identity or image, which they aimed to protect by experimenting with
feedback seeking. Whether SEs interpreted IFS challenges as identity or image threats
depended on their psychological distance from their targeted social issues. That is, the SEs
addressed social issues that were psychologically close (within their direct experience) or
distant (outside their direct experience). More specifically, we identified three distinct IFS
trajectories: entrepreneur-oriented, community-oriented, and opportunity-oriented (see Fig. 2).
While entrepreneur- and community-oriented SEs aimed to address psychologically close
social issues experienced by themselves and their communities, opportunity-oriented SEs
started their ventures to pursue economic opportunities in psychologically distant social issues.
Psychological distance to the social issue intersected with founders’ identities and desired
outward image to inform the purpose of their IFS, which differed across the three trajectories.
Specifically, SEs addressing a social issue that had personally affected them experimented with
a provisional identity as entrepreneurs and sought feedback to strengthen this; SEs addressing
a social issue that had affected their community identified as community members and sought
feedback to co-create solutions with these members; and SEs pursuing an economic opportunity
employed IFS to be seen as social entrepreneursresponsive, engaged, and responsible, thus
enabling pursuit of the opportunity.
As the SEs sought feedback aligned with their purpose and relation to the social issue, they
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
faced multiple challenges. However, SEs relations to the social issue and their purpose for IFS
defined their expectations and what cues they paid attention to or downplayed. SEs therefore
perceived some challenges, or the absence of anticipated events, as threatening and interrupting
to understanding themselves and IFS. They felt anxious, questioned their self-view (identity
threat; Kreiner and Sheep, 2009), or worried about how others saw them (image threat). These
challenges often surfaced implicit and taken-for-granted purposes and identities behind
founders’ start-up motivations and IFS decisions. Equally, SEs downplayed or ignored the
challenge of limited time to seek feedback. They checked their interpretations of the challenges
through experiments (Sandberg and Tsoukas, 2015) to protect provisional identities, reaffirm
existing identities, or protect their image. Overall, because the SEs had distinct identities and
related to their social issues differently, their sensemaking served different needs and, in turn,
shaped different types of changes to their IFS strategies.
Next, we describe all trajectories including SEs identities and psychological distance, IFS
purpose, the challenges they encountered, and their sensemaking patterns.
[Insert Fig. 2 about here]
4.1. Entrepreneur-oriented IFS trajectory
4.1.1. Psychological distance and associated identity
SEs on the entrepreneur-oriented IFS trajectory were psychologically close to the targeted
social issue because they had experienced or anticipated experiencing it as a personal trauma,
which served to motivate their start-up. Their narratives disclosed personally traumatic
experiences that had shaped how they saw themselves and the solutions they developed. For
example, Peter started his social enterprise after personally suffering with gambling addiction,
while Elinor started after adopting a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and years of
trying to cope with very limited support. A small group of SEs on this trajectory also started
their social ventures to act against anticipated trauma for themselves and their children due to
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
the climate crisis (e.g., Greg, Lisa). For example, Daniel S. shared:
When my wife and I had our first child, we changed our lifestyleno cars, no planes,
no meat, only holidays to places we could reach on foot, bike, or train. I am terrified
that my children will suffer tremendous pain from climate change, which touches so
many aspects of our lives. It is not just weather but also food insecurity, and access to
water, and I realized what we were doing was not enough and if I want a better
future for my children, or a future, I need to help other people to take action.
Common among the SEs on this trajectory was transitioning to a new role, as a dramatic,
yet necessary, shift to catalyze positive social change, as Peter exemplified:
I am a banker. I was a banker. So I did banking for 10 years. Pretty senior. […] And I
looked for treatment and there is very little out there. There is a lot for drinking and
drugs. There is a lot out there for sex addiction and even shopping addiction. But there
is very little out there for gambling addiction. I eventually found the National Problem
Gambling Clinic in Soho. And really, other than that, the only places that offered
anything were private clinics, so very expensive places. Very expensive residential
rehab clinics. And to be honest when you go into those you only really have cognitive
behavioral therapy. It is still quite basic stuff and for me that wouldn’t be enough on
its own. So I decided “Right, OK. Something needs to be done about this.” […] It is
something I am quite passionate about. I think my business, my social venture, my
social enterprise, my whatever you want to call it, will add real value simply because
I understand how a gambler thinks, I understand how to overcome a gambling
addiction. I understand the differences between an occasional gambler and a
compulsive or a pathological gambler. And I understand what works to actually get
over that. This is why I am starting the business… but I’ve never done this before.
Even SEs who had previously worked as freelancers found the entrepreneurial role very
different. For example, while Robin had worked as a freelance graphic designer, she recounted
differences in the need to maintain consistency, represent an entire organization, and be
responsible for collaborators: “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
The transition to a new role meant these individuals were letting go, at least partially, of
previous professional identities (e.g., banker, engineer) and constructing a provisional identity
(Ibarra, 1999) as entrepreneurs. This provisional identity was possible and desired but not yet
fully elaborated as a professional identity. For example, many of the SEs used the label
“entrepreneur” rarely and with qualifiers: “I don’t call myself an entrepreneur. I am not sure I
am an entrepreneur yet. Yes, I am starting a business, but that’s just the paperwork and there is
more to it” (Sadie). They were trying to “act the part” as entrepreneurs in their actions and
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
interactions, yet not always clear what the part entailed, how well they acted it, or if it was a
good fit for them. They also did not see themselves as members of a community, nor recognized
that such a community may exist. In stark contrast to SEs on the community-oriented trajectory,
entrepreneur-oriented SEs saw themselves as “doing it alone” (e.g., Tim, Pradip, Rose) and
spoke of their ventures as “my baby” (e.g., Daniel H., Daniel S., Clara).
4.1.2. Purpose of IFS
Entrepreneur-oriented SEs sought feedback to meet the behavioral standards of the
entrepreneur role, thus strengthening their provisional identity. They considered feedback
seeking a common behavior of entrepreneurs, as instructed by books, such as Lean Startup
(e.g., Peter, Daniel H., Angela J., Robin), and the incubators and support initiatives of which
they were members (e.g., Roger, Clara, Greg). Thus, IFS was one way to experiment with their
provisional identity and practice the associated behavioral skills. They also considered IFS
important to learn how to perform the rrole. Though confident in understanding the social issue
and the solution they were developing, SEs were often unsure about their entrepreneurial
abilities and how to perform the entrepreneur role: “my lack of confidence in whether I can
deliver on the promise” (Tim); “as you notice, I am terrible talking about money. I don’t think
I am a natural entrepreneur, so I have to learn” (Sarah). They were often unsure of the meaning
of the role and of performing it well, as Greg reflected:
how completely like a fish out of water I feel. Everything... I’ve been a teacher for 20
years. So I went to school, went to college, went to university, went back to school.
Actually trying to start a business is a massive departure from everything that I know.
For SEs on this trajectory, IFS was one way to learn about and acquire what they
considered the required knowledge, skills, and habits of a capable entrepreneur. Their feedback
requests related to strategic decisions, management issues in day-to-day operations, personal
style and approaches (e.g., how to lead others), and personal habits for improved performance
(e.g., time allocation, lifestyle choices). As Pradip explained:
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
I talk to people about this all the time because I know I don’t have the answers and
people who have been successful might have answers that apply to me. I always... I
don’t think this is helpful, but I am always asking for feedback because I haven’t done
this before.
This importance of “learning the ropes” (e.g., Natalie, Greg, Alister) of the entrepreneurial
role to strengthen the associated provisional identity starkly contrasted with their passion and
confidence in understanding the social issue and its solution. Founders on this trajectory
considered becoming capable entrepreneurs as the only way to catalyze positive social change
and remain objective, as Peter highlighted:
Also because I suffered the addiction and now I work in the field, I need to make sure
I constantly stay objective rather than just passionate about an area that affected me.
[…] to make a difference this needs to be a viable business, not a passion project.
4.1.3. Salient challenge
Entrepreneur-oriented SEs recounted access to appropriate feedback sources as the most
salient challenge, eliciting anxiety and discomfort and needing to be addressed. They perceived
this challenge to limit their access to relevant feedback to learn what it means to be an
entrepreneur and how to perform the role well to strengthen their provisional identity. The SEs
considered that individuals with expertise in a specific domain or with significant commercial
entrepreneurial experience were the “appropriate” or “suitable” feedback sources to help them
“learn the ropes of the job. Yet, they recognized that these feedback sources were outside their
daily work or existing networks. This accessibility challenge was often salient for SEs when
they drew contrasts with their previous or other jobs, such as university lecturers,
commissioners, or bankers, benefiting from opportune and immediate access to feedback
sources. As Natalie reflected:
As a university lecturer, we get feedback all the time, either from students or peers,
and I ask for feedback all the time on problem solving and it is immediate there. Those
people are around me every day and I can always ask them. […]It is just that at the
moment I am not surrounded by the right people, or any people really, to give me
4.1.4. Sensemaking
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Entrepreneur-oriented SEs engaged in sensemaking to protect their provisional identity as
entrepreneurs. They interpreted the challenge as discrepancies in the meaning of the
entrepreneur role and between their behaviors and the role’s behavioral standards (Petriglieri,
2011). Consequently, their enactments involved experiments with the sources and content of
feedback requests to minimize these discrepancies. Interpretation
In seeking to understand the situation and how to function within it, entrepreneur-oriented
SEs interpreted the challenge of access to feedback sources as questioning their fit with and the
meaning of the role. Lack of access to “appropriate” feedback sources, such as other
entrepreneurs, advisors, investors, and gatekeepers, highlighted to SEs that they could not
engage in a behavior considered central to the role they were transitioning into. This forced
them to reflect on their networks and whether they needed to be surrounded by entrepreneurs
and other relevant stakeholders they could learn from: “I just… I am not part of those circles.
Who do I ask for feedback then?” (Tim); “my professional network is different, very different.
No one in it has his own business. Or started a business” (Alister).
However, judging “appropriate” feedback sources was based not only on knowledge and
experience but also on how initial responses by potential feedback sources raised discrepancies
between the SEs behaviors and what they were told it meant to be an entrepreneur. These
interactions thus diminished informants’ provisional identities as entrepreneurs. The
discrepancies emerged partly due to the types of organizations the SEs aimed to buildsocial
ventures nor prioritizing profit maximizationand partly due to the development stage of their
ventures, which often precluded paying themselves a salary. Yet, both business-oriented
feedback sources and family members implied that profit maximization, or at least income
generation, was the expected entrepreneurial outcome. As Sadie recounted about her partner:
He is a businessman. He is very much about business making lots and lots of money,
so if it is not going to make you rich, it is not a business. That is his world view. His
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
motivation is all about making lots of money. And he didn’t really understand that
concept of building a business that wasn’t going to make someone rich.
Rose reflected a similar experience with her partner:
I realized my husband is the only one I wouldn’t seek feedback from. And although I
do sometimes mention the project, majority of the time it is met with hostility because
I am not bringing in any income. So it is very... It is a bit stressful really. The
requirement for me is really to get out and go get a real job, and trying to make this
work is quite hard because it is not very well respected in my family. […] He is the one
who is bringing the income, so it is understandable and he is absolutely right, but it is
just difficult for me because therefore I can’t talk to him about it at all. He regards it
as a waste of his brainpower given that it is not bringing in any money and you know
I have to think about my relationship with him and my family, not just the project.
In interpreting access to and identifying “appropriate” feedback sources, SEs also
questioned the meaning of the entrepreneurial role due to the conflicting expectations they tried
to navigate. They considered that, besides IFS, maintaining competitiveness was also a
common and desirable behavior for entrepreneurs. This raised conflicting expectations: to
obtain feedback from individuals leading other commercial or social ventures, SEs had to
disclose relevant information on which sources could provide feedback. This could include
ideas for new products and services, methods and approaches of program design, or product
features. They feared appropriation of their ideas by feedback sources: “I was worried that
someone might steal the idea because it is such a good idea” (Daniel S). Olivia highlighted this
sense of vulnerability:
I wouldn’t want to tell her about some of the work I am doing because I am concerned
she might take some of the ideas and I know she is the same. We are now in competition.
Further diminishing provisional identity was their fear of letting down others by not
fulfilling the role requirements. Contrary to their provisional identity as competent
entrepreneurs, SEs on this trajectory feared that IFS could signal lack of knowledge and
“mistakes.Thus, they were afraid that people will think I am not good at my job” (Lisa) and
hoped to “get away with them not finding out I’ve screwed up” (Daniel H). Such fears
evidenced discrepancies between who they were and the role standards, and were experienced
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
in relation to venture stakeholders and with personally significant others, as Roger reflected:
I think from a personal perspective it is difficult to ask for feedback from my partner
just because I feel there’s a lot of pressure on me. I left my job. She’s been the one
financially supporting me for a little while and there’s extra pressure for me to make
this work to prove to her that her belief in me was well-founded and I can do this. So
it is difficult to expose your vulnerabilities in your personal life. I try not to do that. Enactment
Engaged in enacted sensemaking about the challenge of accessing feedback sources, SEs
on this trajectory experimented with whom they approached and the content of feedback
requests. These experiments demonstrated attempts to protect their provisional identity as
entrepreneurs by controlling IFS interactions and minimizing anticipated discrepancies
between their behavior and the role standards.
In making sense of their circumstances through experiments with whom they approached
for feedback, SEs made careful decisions about feedback sources. They refrained from IFS with
certain individuals or groups to avoid conflicts over the meaning of the entrepreneurial role and
discrepancies between existing networks and what they considered to be entrepreneurial
networkscharacterized by support from significant others and peers. Among those they
avoided were (social) entrepreneurs and charity leaders who were not trusted because they
might steal my ideas” (Daniel H), as well as family members: my husband would get fed up
of me talking about it, so I don’t tend to talk about it at home” (Angela J). Reflecting on how
feedback requests exposed the lack of support for his social venture, Alister summarized his
approach to refraining from IFS with family members:
It is not something for them. It is not something we involve them in because it makes
life more difficult, so we just get on with it. It is totally separate from our family lives.
We don’t talk about it and don’t involve our families into this.
Instead, the SEs experimented with proactively and carefully reaching out to individuals
outside their networks to request feedback. They engaged in a sometimes long process of
identifying potential new feedback sources, researching them, and leveraging existing
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
relationships and membership organizations for introductions and assessment of whether these
sources could be trusted. They traveled to other parts of and even outside the country to seek
feedback from individuals not considered to be competitors. For instance, Olivia traveled from
the UK to Los Angeles to seek feedback on her approach and role as an entrepreneur from the
founder and employees of a community arts organization outside her network. Tim’s approach
was similarly proactive, spending several months searching for the “right” person who would
understand the purpose of his application and not pose appropriation risks:
It is me going after people, like me meeting with [name of feedback source] of [name
of organization]. I was the one who contacted her. I emailed her and said, Look, Ive
got this project and I’d like you feedback. Can we meet?
Engaged in enacted sensemaking on their lack of access to feedback sources, SEs also
experimented with the content of their feedback requests. They carefully phrased requests to
influence meaning and future actions, striving to minimize potential threats to their provisional
identity as entrepreneurs. To minimize misunderstanding, SEs often “positioned” and
“signposted” their feedback requests with specific explanations of what they did, what they
were seeking feedback on, and what they hoped to gain from the feedback. They engaged in
careful disclosure of partial information, thus protecting important aspects of their ideas, or
used humor to signal awareness of the risks. For instance, Peter was careful with how much I
share, about the methodology and the ideology. For example, I share what I do, but not why
and how I do it. That’s what I do.” Angela J phrased her requests to disclose only partial and
absolutely necessary information to gain feedback, and used humor to signal her awareness of
the potential competitiveness implications of IFS: “I get quite positive feedback and that
unnerves me a bit and then I always make a joke about it and say: ‘And if you pinch that idea,
I’ll know who it is.’” SEs further experimented with the content of requests by segmenting
feedback sources into different groups and seeking feedback from them on different, specific
topics. For example, instead of refraining from seeking feedback from family members, Daniel
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
H focused requests on “certain things I will ask in the family” while avoiding certain things I
wouldn’t.” He applied a similar logic to feedback requests to investors and other SEs to
minimize threats to his identity and image. Angela J summarized this approach as:
I have these little pockets of people I speak to about different things. There are those
two people I speak to about myself and then with the others I don’t. It is only about the
business. It is very much in departments and it works.
Thus, through their sensemaking patterns, SEs aimed to protect their provisional identity
as entrepreneurs by minimizing their insecurities in relation to role standards.
4.2. Community-oriented IFS trajectory
4.2.1. Psychological distance and associated identity
SEs on this trajectory were psychologically close to the social issue they targeted because
they recognized it through their membership of a geographic community (e.g., in a specific
neighborhood or a town) or a community of interest (e.g., a closely knit community of young
people who have been bullied and excluded) (Lumpkin et al., 2018). They identified with the
community and expressed this identity by starting a social venture to serve the community.
Their narratives were filled with descriptions of complex, nested social issues (e.g., wellbeing
and exclusion among older people like Calvin or young people like Sam; food poverty and
climate justice in Clinton’s neighborhood), how these social issues affected their communities,
and why they were acting to address these issues because of their community membership: “I
am one of those men” (Calvin); “this has plagued our community since… I don’t remember a
time when we weren’t dealing with these issues” (Lauren). The language used when discussing
the social issues and their ventures indicated that these SEs considered themselves members of
the specific community and that this membership was core to their identity. For example, they
often used first-person plural pronouns (“we, i.e., the community) to talk about their social
ventures, even when describing their individual actions, such as legally registering the
organization or securing funding: “We only started this activity… or I started” (Clinton); “as
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
we were working on this, well I was working on it” (Sam). Yet, they did not consider
themselves sole representatives of the community and recognized diverse experiences within
it, hence the purpose of IFS to co-create with community members.
4.2.2. Purpose of IFS
Tied to their community-member identity and start-up motivation to support the
community, SEs on this trajectory viewed IFS as part of their overall practice of co-creating
the social venture with community members, not for the community. Founders’ long-term
vision was that “the community can shape that development and they’d ultimately not only
shape it but be embedded within it and continue to receive the outputs of it” (Clinton); “I
genuinely want The Workshop to be everybody’s workshop rather than just my idea” (Calvin).
This approach toward co-creating solutions was described as “more meaningful. It is authentic
and sustainable because if the people who use the platform develop the platform then it will
work better … I am one of the people who has been bullied and stigmatized, but that is only
one perspective. The experiences in the community are very different” (Sam). This is why SEs
on this trajectory sought broad feedback from the community about the solution. The dominant
purpose of IFS was contributing toward coproducing solutions, as summarized by Clinton:
They are things done to people, done at people. They are solutions that are imposed
on people, rather than what I am trying to achieve with the engagement of the land,
which is people feeling that they’ve had an input. That they’ve shaped the direction of
this. That they created the space. That they created the garden. That they’ve had an
input in what it will achieve and what it will do.
4.2.3. Salient challenge
While SEs on this IFS trajectory experienced multiple challenges, the only salient and
meaningful one was the lack of or limited engagement by community members in providing
feedback. This cue elicited anxiety, questioning, and attempts to tackle the challenge. They all
shared instances of “struggling a little bit to excite that group” to engage in conversations
(Sam), attend meetings (Clinton), and provide feedback: “[w]hen we met a week ago, I was
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
very conscious I was doing all the talking” (Calvin). This low engagement starkly contrasted
with founders’ expectations of active community engagement and their ideals about co-
creation. This challenge not only violated their expectations of IFS as a mechanism for co-
creation but also called into question whether they were actually community members, as they
saw themselves. These violations of their expectations of IFS and the self triggered
sensemaking among SEs.
4.2.4. Sensemaking
Community-oriented SEs engaged in sensemaking to reaffirm their existing identity as
community members by interpreting the challenge and enacting experiments showing care for
the community. Low community engagement in response to their feedback requests prompted
SEs to question the meaning and expression of their community-member identity (Petriglieri,
2011): were they really a member, what did it mean to be a member, and did they understand
what the community needed? For Sam, “it’s thrown… It’s made me think that maybe I don’t
understand what we need as a community.” Calvin noted:
I am one of these men, but maybe I am not. If you’re a man in your 60s and you’ve just
retired, and you feel lost and your sense of purpose is gone, and your wife is trying to
push you out of the house, starting a social enterprise won’t be something you consider.
Probably not. Interpretation
In seeking to understand the situation and how to function within it, SEs on this trajectory
interpreted the difficulty of sourcing feedback from community members in ways reaffirming
their identity as community members who cared about the community. They reasoned that the
challenge was rooted in community members’ vulnerability, and so considered how their status,
stressors, and experiences made it difficult for community members to provide feedback. The
SEs recognized that responding to their feedback requests required effort and time, yet
community members “are very, very busy and they sometimes say ‘Yes, we’ll get back to you
on that,and they never do” (Lauren). This interpretation demonstrated care for the community,
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aligned with founders’ start-up motivation to serve the community, and reassured the SEs that
they still understood the community and what it meant to be a member, thus reaffirming their
identity as community members.
SEs also identified that vulnerable community members who relied on the social venture
may experience power dynamics that limited their voice and confidence to share feedback.
Often the social venture was the only organization that provided or could provide support for
the community. Thus, the SEs rationalized members’ limited engagement as “feeling nervous
about sharing ideas that can shape the project” (Clinton) for fear of losing future access to the
service. As Calvin explained in relation to older individuals suffering exclusion and poor
mental health:
it’s somebody you’re offering ongoing support to and you ask them for feedback on
how it’s going and what could be better, usually the easiest option is for people to say
“Oh yeah, it’s good. It’s fine. I’m doing alright.”
SEs noted that members’ limited engagement in IFS could be due to fear of exposing their
status: the act of responding to feedback requests could expose community members’
stigmatized status and vulnerability by identifying them as someone who needs support, has
mental health challenges, or lives in poverty. Considering a group of individuals he could not
engage in providing feedback, Clinton explained that “[s]ome people are quite isolated and they
really struggle to come forward, they have an embarrassment. Enactment
Engaged in enacted sensemaking, the SEs on this trajectory experimented with the IFS
process in ways that demonstrated care for community members and attempted to minimize the
pressure on them. Aligned with their community-member identity, SEs enactment aimed to
make it easier, more flexible, and safer for members to share feedback by creating multiple
opportunities and methods to do so. SEs acknowledged that addressing this challenge required
a long, effortful process; however, this effort and care also helped to reduce their own
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
questioning of whether they were indeed members and understood the community. For Clinton,
this process took “well in excess of 500–600 hours’ worth of time. Probably even more. I
havent sat down to think how long that took me but it was over many months of discussion.
More specifically, SEs experimented with ways to strengthen and leverage feedback
relationships with individuals and groups in their respective communities, and sought to create
dedicated groups of members to provide regular feedback. This included creating “feedback
teams” (Lauren), “co-creator groups” (Sam), and “steering groups” (Calvin, Colin) very early
in the venture-emergence process. These groups helped bring community members closer to
SEs’ decision-making process in relation to the solution, and aimed to enhance members’ voice
and confidence in sharing feedback. For example, Sam established an advisory “co-creators
teamof young people who represented the community: in exchange for providing feedback
on the digital platform, they were given a 15% shareholding in the venture. Sam considered the
equity stake essential to provide “an incentive to give us good feedback and help us build a
good product because they have a share in the company, in contrast to the lack of member
engagement he encountered earlier. He summarized the advisory co-creators’ role as follows:
So they are not big roles officially and only involve a few hours of work, but they are
crucial for us because they bring these new perspectives from different worlds and can
give us feedback about different parts of the project that we dont have much
experience in.
Engaged in enacted sensemaking on members’ low engagement in providing feedback,
SEs on the community-oriented IFS trajectory also experimented with the channels for seeking
feedback, striving “to find innovative ways in which to capture them and [make it] easy for
them to give feedback” (Lauren). They developed communication platforms through which
members could share feedback in response to ongoing requests. Some channels relied on
technology-mediated communication, such as blogs (Calvin), regular e-newsletters (Calvin,
Clinton), and WhatsApp groups (Sam), with requests for feedback on specific topics or issues
related to the solution. SEs also created spaces to engage in feedback seeking with community
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
members in person, including regular consultations (Clinton), open meetings (Calvin), and
coffee mornings (Lauren) open to all community members with the purpose of seeking
feedback. Recognizing that stigma may prevent community members from attending open
events, SEs also attempted to reach out to individuals in private, [t]o give them a voice without
them having... an embarrassment” (Clinton).
These sensemaking patterns demonstrated care for the community, aligned with founders’
relation to the social issue and reaffirming their identity as community members who
understood the community and acted in its service.
4.3. Opportunity-oriented IFS trajectory
4.3.1. Psychological distance and associated identities
SEs on this trajectory addressed psychologically distant social issues. Their stated
motivation for starting the social ventures were economic opportunities that also allowed them
to catalyze positive social change around a social issue (e.g., support for prisoners’ families,
smoking and violence prevention, economic development). They recognized these economic
opportunities through their existing role identities, such as entrepreneurs, teachers, and public
servants, and aimed to portray an image of social entrepreneurs to pursue the opportunities.
Unlike for SEs on the other two trajectories, the social issues were unrelated to these SEs’
personal need or the need of the community they identified with. Participants’ discourses
revealed a myriad of meanings of “economic opportunity”: to supplement income (Jennifer);
to remain active in the labor market after redundancy, amid doubts about finding a similar
position at her age (Sandra); to transition to retirement (Brendan). For Sophia and Andrew,
both serial entrepreneurs, neglected issues were opportunities for innovations that could
generate significant profits. Thus, all the SEs on this trajectory explicitly aimed to balance
economic and social demands. As Sophia explained:
From a business point of view, it makes a lot of sense to enter this space. One, it is
absolutely neglected, no one is really offering anything meaningful to local clubs, and
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
two, it is a huge market with both local councils and national sports bodies as potential
customers. And it does create social change, but I don’t see the economic and the social
aspects as mutually exclusive. You can make money and make a difference. At the end
of the day, I have bills to pay. I work damn hard, my team works damn hard, we should
all be getting paid fairly.
While SEs on this trajectory held salient and well-established role identities that helped
them identify the opportunities they pursed, they all wanted to portray an image of social
entrepreneursresponsive, engaged, and credible. Most had developed B-to-B business
models (e.g., Angela N) and often worked with customers from the public sector (e.g., Colin),
so their enterprises being seen as social conferred an advantage over traditional commercial
entities or was necessary where similar services were offered by other social enterprises. Thus,
portraying the image of a social entrepreneur was considered essential to pursue the economic
opportunity and balance economic and social demands, even though this image did not entirely
align with SEs’ identities.
4.3.2. Purpose of IFS
Opportunity-oriented SEs viewed IFS as a symbolic action (Zott and Huy, 2007) that
conveyed subjective meaning: its dominant purpose was to increase the venture’s visibility and
signal a social image of responsiveness, engagement, and credibility to key stakeholders, such
as customers, funders, beneficiaries, employees, and partners. The SEs considered themselves
dependent on these key stakeholders for tangible and intangible resources (e.g., funding, sales).
They considered IFS as a safe, low-cost tactic allowing them to “be seen,raise awareness, and
gain attention from others and ultimately access resources. For example, Josie B perceived IFS
“as another way to raise awareness about my organization,” while Angela N and Dominic
echoed a similar approach to IFS as “a form of marketing” that allowed “people to see that we
exist.” Building on this general visibility, SEs also anticipated that by seeking feedback,
stakeholders “will view us positively” (Josie B) and “look at us favorably” (Sandra) because
IFS signaled engagement, participation, and incorporating others input (i.e., responsiveness).
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Opportunity-oriented SEs sought feedback so that others would view them as responsive
to and representative of the needs of customers and beneficiaries, thus boosting the credibility
of their image. They recognized that, as founders of their social ventures, they were the face of
the organization: at the moment the brand is all Sophia” (Sophia), “I am the public face”
(Andrew), because it’s me that everybody sees” (Selena), often as outsiders to a specific
field. Yet, the SEs also had to demonstrate that they knew their customers and beneficiaries,
understood their communities and social need, and “built from the perspective of a community
leader” (Sophia), not from their own perspective. Thus, they considered that engaging in IFS
signaled effort to understand the needs of beneficiaries and customers and responsiveness to
those needs when developing and designing solutions. As Josie H illustrated:
If we are saying to our stakeholders, whichever group it is, “We need to know what
you think, and we are interested in what you think, and we want to make things better
for you,then that strengthens our relationships with them because it makes them think
that we are responsible and responsive.
SEs used IFS to signal that they were developing solutions that were credible, rather than
operating as outsiders. Unlike community-oriented SEs, founders on the opportunity-oriented
trajectory did not express motivations for coproducing solutions together with beneficiaries.
Instead, they aimed to be seen as concerned with others’ input and to raise their credibility.
Reflecting on his outsider status in the education field, Andrew shared how he approached IFS:
I needed credibility... I am always confident in what I am doing and why I am doing it,
but it is always difficult to convince others when you don’t have evidence or previous
success or any professional experience in that field... So having been only a pupil and
a student, but never worked in education, I am coming from outside and I need to make
sure that what I am expressing they can understand and see as credible.
Viewing IFS as a symbolic action for image purposes shaped the content of founders’
feedback requests and the sources they approached. They sought feedback mostly about their
solutions, but the content of their requests was often irrelevant: in many cases, the mere act of
seeking feedback was perceived to contribute toward a positive image among feedback sources.
Additionally, the SEs recounted their IFS interactions in engagement with broader groups of
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
stakeholders to demonstrate credibility.
4.3.3. Salient challenge
The most salient challenge for SEs on this trajectory was the lack of or limited engagement
by feedback sources, which signaled a meaningful discrepancy between SEsexperiences and
expectations of IFS as an image-management tactic. SEs shared how challenging it was to
engage with feedback sources: they were “still trying to chase that up to get feedback” (Josie
B) and “[t]rying to get hold of him has been a nightmare” (Josie H). They shared instances
where “[w]e didn’t have many people turn up” to feedback meetings (Dominic) because “they
also have other much better things to be doing” (Angela N). Colin summarized this challenge:
Getting feedback is quite hard because sometimes people just can’t be bothered to give
you feedback, they might just even lie and say everything is looking alright when really
and truly it’s not.
4.3.4. Sensemaking
Opportunity-oriented SEs engaged in sensemaking to protect their social image, thus
interpreting the challenge as highlighting discrepancies between the image they wanted to
portray (e.g., social, caring) and the image they may be portraying (e.g., pestering others). They
experimented with the timing of feedback requests to minimize these discrepancies. Interpretation
While opportunity-oriented SEs experienced the same salient challenge as community-
oriented SEs, they interpreted it differently. In making sense of their circumstances, they
recognized that their IFS could challenge the image they aimed to present. These SEs
acknowledged that sources engaged in IFS voluntarily because “there’s no gigantic incentive
for them” (Selena) to respond to feedback requests. While they relied on IFS to shape a positive
and social image with feedback sources and broader stakeholder groups, SEs also expressed
concern that feedback requests could be seen as “pestering” (Selena, Dominic, Colin) and cause
feedback sources to feel “hounded” (Selena), “threatened” (Yvette), “annoyed,or “stressed”
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
(Andrew, Angela N). From SEs’ perspective, being seen as “pestering” or “threatening” was
worrying as it contradicted the image they wanted to present as social entrepreneurscaring
and responsive to stakeholders’ needs. Dominic summarized the balancing act of IFS between
shaping a positive social image and potentially threatening that image:
When we started, I wanted our beneficiaries and our customers to see that I care, that
I want to do good by them. And this is where all these meetings and requests [for
feedback] came from. And I still think that can be helpful… But I have also become
more… What matters more? That they think of me as someone who cares and wants to
respond to their needs, or that I am that oldie pestering them? Is the benefit greater
than the harm? And how do I know when they’ll think of me this way or that way? Enactment
In making sense of the challenge of feedback sources’ low engagement, SEs on this
trajectory enacted changes by experimenting with the timing of feedback requests, exhibiting
care for their image, in line with their IFS purpose. Such experiments with timing included
proactively refraining from or delaying feedback requests: “I am going to defer the meeting”
(Samantha); “so I might be waiting until things quieten down for him” (Josie B). Reflecting on
why he did not ask one employee for feedback, Brandon shared: it deteriorated into a very
emotional meeting and I was trying to avoid that because it is difficult for me and for her and I
didnt want to upset her.
These experiments included careful timing of IFS to avoid “continual pressure” (Angela
N) on feedback sources and wait for “the right timing, when they are not busy. I have to be a
bit careful that way (Selena). Opportunity-oriented SEs also created rules of thumb about
timing so as “not to over ask them” (Sophia) and avoid “putting unnecessary pressure on the
person” (Andrew) if they have already provided feedback, helped in other ways, or “don’t have
much time to give feedback” (Andrew). Yvette shared a similar approach of avoiding asking
for too much and scaffolding feedback requests:
So I am very, very economical about that. Very careful how much I ask for. […] So I
try to always remember where they are and make the steps that I am asking from them
very clear and make sure they are very small.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
SEs shared rules of thumb for when to ask for feedback and giving advance notice to
potential feedback sources. For example, some rules were based on emerging challenges, such
as “I feel that something is not going right” (Jennifer) or “as soon as there’s a sign that someone
stops coming” (Sandra). SEs explicitly informed potential feedback sources to expect a request
early on, thus helping with their own planning: “so there’s an expectation at the end of whatever
they’re doing that they’ll give me feedback” (Andrew). Finally, founders’ rules of thumb
covered the frequency of reminders and chasing up feedback: “send them one chaser and then
after that I just leave them” (Adrian).
Overall, in making sense of their circumstances, SEs on this trajectory questioned what
subjective meanings and signals they were conveying and enacted experiments with the timing
of feedback requests to protect their image as social entrepreneurs.
5. Discussion
Our inductive study based on 82 interviews with 36 SEs reveals that IFS is an identity-
driven process that SEs navigate, including its challenges, through sensemaking. SEs’
sensemaking patterns are shaped by their psychological distance from the targeted social issue.
When SEs address psychologically close social issues with which they identify, they seek
feedback to improve their ventures’ offerings and entrepreneurial practice. In turn, their
sensemaking includes interpreting salient challenges as identity threats and changing IFS
strategies to protect their threatened identities. In our study, this describes community-oriented
and entrepreneur-oriented SEs. In contrast, when SEs address psychologically distant social
issues seen as economic opportunities, they seek feedback as a symbolic action to present a
social image. Their sensemaking includes interpreting the salient challenge as an image threat
and changing IFS strategies to protect their desired image. These founders are opportunity-
oriented. Within the three IFS trajectories we identified, sensemaking patterns serve different
needs among SEs, i.e., to protect identity or image (see Fig. 2). Our findings have implications
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
for research in (social) entrepreneurship and OB.
5.1. Agency in and precarity of feedback seeking: Elaborating the interplay between identity
and feedback processes in entrepreneurship
Although we focused on social entrepreneurs, our findings advance emerging
understanding of the relationship between identity and feedback processes in entrepreneurship
more broadly. Past research assumes that feedback is readily available to entrepreneurs and has,
thus, focused on how entrepreneurs respond to and integrate feedback in their venturing efforts
and how the content of feedback provided by others impacts entrepreneurs’ identities (Conger
et al., 2018; Demetry, 2017; Grimes, 2018; O’Neil et al., 2020). In contrast, our investigation
focuses on how entrepreneurs expend substantial effort proactively seeking feedback and how
this is guided by their identity. Thus, we offer a new, complementary perspective that draws
attention to the effortful and agentic nature of entrepreneurs’ IFS because, for entrepreneurs,
feedback is not always easily and freely available. Our findings suggest that even when
entrepreneurs seek feedback, they may not receive it, and so must learn how to elicit feedback
and adapt their strategies through sensemaking. In this way, we draw attention to the agency in
and the precarity of IFS as a process that can threaten identity. Next, we unpack in more detail
how our findings elucidate three aspects of feedback processes.
First, we newly expose the plurality of IFS with different trajectories not equally available
to all entrepreneurs. While previous research has described IFS uniformly for all entrepreneurs
as a simple act (Collewaert et al., 2016; Katre and Salipante, 2012), our findings highlight the
complexity of the process, with different challenges, choices, purposes, and changes shaped by
identity and sensemaking. In turn, sensemaking serves different needs in reaffirming or
protecting existing or provisional identities. These identity-centric sensemaking patterns mean
that the IFS process unfolds differently for entrepreneurs based on their identities when starting
the founding journey. Thus, not all trajectories are equally available to all entrepreneurs, at least
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
initially. Broadly, our findings show how the initial nature of entrepreneurs’ identities shapes
how they engage in IFS, from why they seek feedback to how they respond to challenges and
change their IFS strategies. Additionally, it is also possible that the trajectories identified here
can apply to other entrepreneur groups beyond SEs, such as novice entrepreneurs
experimenting with and elaborating a provisional entrepreneur identity (Demetry, 2017), or
those attempting to portray an image consistent with that expected by stakeholders (Fisher et
al., 2017), for instance the image of a coachable entrepreneur to obtain VC investment (Ciuchta
et al., 2018).
Second, we extend current understanding of what constitutes an identity threat in feedback
processes and, in turn, what strategies entrepreneurs enact to mitigate identity threats. Prior
research has focused on the content of provided feedback as a potential identity threat (Conger
et al., 2018; Grimes, 2018): examples include disconfirming feedback challenging the
entrepreneur’s business idea (Grimes, 2018), or a disappointing B Corp Certification score
challenging their view of their organization as social (Conger et al., 2018). In light of this
identity threat, the literature portrays entrepreneurs as avoiding, resisting, and questioning
provided feedback to protect their identities or engaging in identity work. In contrast, our
findings draw attention to the very process of IFS, showing that beyond feedback content, how
others respond (e.g., whether they provide requested feedback) or whether entrepreneurs even
have “appropriate” feedback sources can also threaten entrepreneurs’ identities. Critically,
some entrepreneurs may not even receive feedback to threaten their identity due to the
challenges they encounter in seeking feedback (e.g., engaging others to respond to requests).
In sum, we complement existing research focusing on the content of feedback by drawing
attention to the IFS process itself as a potential threat to entrepreneurs’ identities.
By unveiling the precarity of and new identity threats related to the IFS process, we also
uncover new strategies deployed by entrepreneurs to mitigate identity threats, thus highlighting
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
the agentic nature of entrepreneurs’ navigation of feedback processes. Similarly to emerging
research (Grimes, 2018), our data show that refraining from IFS is one strategy to protect
identities. Importantly, our findings demonstrate the plurality of the refraining strategy, which
can be temporary and/or limited to specific individuals to suit different purposes. Our findings
further complement the literature by showing that refraining from IFS is far from the only
strategy to protect identities in feedback processes. Entrepreneurs can experiment with the
timing of feedback requests, whom they approach, how they seek feedback, and the content of
requests. Indeed, some entrepreneurs invest significant time and energy seeking feedback to
reaffirm their identities. Critically, these experiments alter our understanding of the nature of
IFS: whereas past studies view IFS as a simple activity (Katre and Salipante, 2012), our findings
highlight that entrepreneurs change their IFS strategies to navigate the process in agentic ways.
Finally, we extend current understanding of how entrepreneurs can use IFS to craft their
image in ways aligned (or not) with their identities and perceived audience expectations.
Previous research has demonstrated how entrepreneurs’ IFS can be seen positively by investors
(Ciuchta et al., 2018; Warnick et al., 2018). In line with these findings, our research shows that
entrepreneurs seek feedback as a symbolic action (Zott and Huy, 2007), aware of the
expectations of different audiences. Our findings also reveal plurality in how entrepreneurs
expect the behavior to be perceived by different audiences. Some SEs aimed to portray the
image of an entrepreneur, aligned with their provisional identity, because IFS is a common and
desired behavior among entrepreneurs. Other SEs sought feedback to portray a social image,
expecting the act to be perceived as a sign of responsiveness, engagement, and credibility in
the social issue domain, even if this image was not aligned with their identities.
While past research focused on how IFS may be positively perceived by audiences
(Ciuchta et al., 2018; Warnick et al., 2018), the SEs in our study offered a more nuanced
perspective. They highlighted the importance of also considering the potential negative
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
meanings that audiences can draw from entrepreneurs IFSa sign of weakness and
incompetence or “pestering” and “annoying.While our data represent only the experiences
and perceptions of SEs, and not of feedback sources, the suspected negative interpretations of
entrepreneurs’ IFS may be missing from the literature because it focuses on the perceptions of
investors (Ciuchta et al., 2018; Warnick et al., 2018) with specific power dynamics between
them and entrepreneurs. Our study complements and extends this line of inquiry and calls for
future research to consider additional stakeholder groups, such as employees or customers, who
were salient to the SEs in our study.
5.2. Uncovering heterogeneous motivations and psychological distance in social venturing
Our findings foreground new heterogeneity of SEs’ start-up motivations and, in turn,
introduce psychological distance from the social issue as an explanatory mechanism to explore
how the targeted social issue influence important social venturing processes. First, our findings
challenge the taken-for-granted assumption that SEs are solely or mainly driven by prosocial
concern. Both theoretical and empirical work emphasizes the prosocial motivations of SEs in
the form of personal values, motives, and emotions, (Miller et al., 2012; Kruse et al., 2020;
Stephan and Drencheva, 2017 for a review). Consequently, research has focused on the social
goals of social ventures (Stevens and Moray, 2015) and how these goals need to be protected
or balanced against economic demands (e.g., Smith and Besharov, 2019). In addition to
prosocial motivation, our findings show that SEs can be motivated by satisfying a personal
need for help or by economic opportunities to generate income for themselves or profits.
Second, our study introduces psychological distance from the targeted social issue as a
potential explanatory mechanism in understanding how social issues influence critical aspects
of social venturing. Moreover, psychological distance to the social issue also helps to
understand better SEs’ start-up motivations. In our study, economic start-up motivations were
associated with SEs addressing psychologically distant social issues; whereas psychological
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
closeness was intertwined with start-up motivations of addressing personal needs that also
affected others or needs that related to the SE’s community. Our findings reveal that
psychological distance from the targeted social issue is an expression of SEs’ identities and that
it matters for how SEs seek feedback, for how they make sense of challenges in IFS, and for
how they navigate these challenges.
Beyond motivations, our findings suggest psychological distance has the potential to
enhance our understanding of how the social issues addressed by social ventures matter in
social venturing. To date, social entrepreneurship research has surfaced insights into how
ventures navigate the tensions between economic and social/environmental demands (Jay,
2013; Smith and Besharov, 2019) within different institutional contexts (Desa and Basu, 2013)
and based on SEs’ identities and identifications with their ventures (Wagenschwanz and
Grimes, 2021; Wry and York, 2017). Yet, social issues, as the raison d’être for social ventures,
are often neglected (Mair and Rathert, 2020). Considering psychological distance advances
insight into the theorical mechanism of how social issues ‘translate’ into the experience of the
individual entrepreneur. It thus provides a critical bridge to understand how the reality of social
issues manifests in the experience of SEs and may guide their actions and choices about the
venture. Specifically, we propose that psychological distance can offer new insights into three
critical aspects of social venturing: positive social change strategies, mission drift, and access
to resources. We elaborate these potential links as fruitful future research avenues.
According to construal-level theory (Trope and Liberman, 2000, 2003), psychological
distance is a subjective experience that influences how individuals think about events, issues,
and constructs and whether they act. When individuals experience an event or a social issue as
psychologically distant, their mental representations of the issue are high-level, abstract, and
simple. However, when individuals experience a social issue as psychologically close, their
mental representations are low-level, concrete, and detailed, and thus likely to inspire action.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
For example, science communication research suggests that when individuals subjectively
experience the climate crisis as psychologically distant, they are less likely to act pro-
environmentally than those who experience it as psychologically close (Loy and Spence, 2020).
SEs’ psychological distance from the social issue can explain why they develop specific
social change strategies or face mission drift in different directions. When psychologically
close to and holding a detailed representation of the social issue, SEs are better positioned to
develop deep-level, positive social change strategies that catalyze durable and pervasive social
impact, increasing in reach over time (Stephan et al., 2016). However, such detailed
understanding of the issue may come with greater emotional intensity (Van Boven et al., 2010),
resulting in prioritizing social over economic demands as one form of mission drift (Grimes et
al., 2019). Conversely, when SEs are psychologically distant from the targeted social issue, and
thus have a more abstract representation of it, they may be more likely to develop surface-level
positive social change strategies that produce a temporary and contingent social impact
(Stephan et al., 2016). These SEs may prioritize economic demands and neglect social
demands, thus experiencing mission drift in a different direction (Grimes et al., 2019) compared
to SEs psychologically close to the social issue.
Stakeholders’ psychological distance from the social issue can also influence how SEs
mobilize resources. SEs’ psychological distance emerged as one key construct in this study, yet
other individuals and groups, such as funders, customers, employees, and volunteers, can also
experience psychological distance from the social issue. Emerging research in crowdfunding
(Rose et al., 2020) shows that potential contributors to campaigns are less willing to support
psychologically distant campaigns, such as those in early development stages or with a
temporally distant expected product delivery date. Similar reasoning can be applied to the
decision making of funders, investors, and crowdfunding contributors on supporting social
ventures based on their psychological closeness to the targeted social issue. This reasoning can
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
also be extended to human capital and whether individuals are willing to work or volunteer for
a social venture based on their psychological distance from the social issue, analogous to the
pro-environmental action scenario studied by Loy and Spence (2020). Indeed, Loy and
Spence’s (2020) research suggests that SEs can use psychological distance to access resources
by bringing social issues closer to individuals’ daily experiences with visuals and local stories.
Overall, psychological distance offers novel avenues for researching important aspects of
social ventures’ work, such as social change strategies, mission drift, and access to resources.
5.3. Expanding understanding of feedback seeking in OB research
Our findings contribute to the IFS stream in OB research by introducing a new theoretical
lens (sensemaking) and a new construct (role identity) for understanding why and how
individuals seek feedback differently from one another and over time. Our research investigates
a foundational concept from OB research with a new group of feedback seekers, with a new
method for this research stream, and through a new theoretical lens. Consequently, our findings
depict IFS as a sensemaking process that is iterative and reflective, with diverse experiments
and changes to IFS strategies. This contrasts with the dominant OB approach, which
emphasizes the rational economic lens of costbenefit analysis (Anseel et al., 2015).
Importantly, our sensemaking accounts reveal that individuals may act in fundamentally
different ways when seeking feedback and navigating the challenges, beyond varying the
frequency of IFS. These different ways of seeking feedback enrich OB research on IFS by
explicating the plurality of experiments that individuals conduct with the IFS process, feedback
sources, content, and timing of requests, leading to changes in their IFS strategies over time.
These accounts contrast with and complement the relatively straightforward acts of seeking
feedback directly from supervisors and peers, and monitoring the environment for feedback
cues (Parker and Collins, 2010), as commonly considered in OB research.
Unveiling the role of existing and provisional identities in IFS also opens new avenues for
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
OB research, which has acknowledged that IFS can have implications for one’s self-views
(Ashford et al., 2016) but not yet considered role identity and identity threat as specific
constructs. These constructs can provide new avenues to address conflicting findings on the
relationship between IFS and self-views: Renn and Fedor (2001) report a positive relationship
between self-efficacy and IFS, whereas Brown et al. (2001) find no relationship. Future
research in this area can focus on identity and identity threat as different aspects of self-views.
For example, future research can investigate the differences in how, how frequently, and why
individuals seek feedback based on their existing and provisional identities (or conflict between
multiple identities) and what they experience as identity threats, which can provide nuance to
the self-efficacy perspective.
By virtue of its setting, our study introduces a new group of feedback seekers (i.e., SEs) to
OB research on IFS, which has been employee-centric (Ashford et al., 2016). We believe that
our findings can inspire future research on groups of feedback seekers so far neglected in OB
research, such as strategic leaders, independent workers obtaining a variety of work for
different clients or employers (Clinton et al., 2006; Petriglieri et al., 2019), and individuals
pursuing passion projects (Berg et al., 2010). These worker groups face similar challenges to
SEs in terms of uncertainty, strategic decision making, and the need to shape image through
the symbolic nature of IFS. For SEs, strategic leaders, and independent workers alike, IFS is
not just a personal resource, as conceptualized in OB research (Ashford, 1986), but also a
resource for their organizations, given the significance of strategic leaders for organizational
outcomes (Hambrick and Mason,1984). These groups may also face unique challenges when
seeking feedback, such as limited access to and engagement of feedback sources, as we
identified. These challenges are not recognized in OB research because its participants are
usually in established organizations and within formalized relationships not available to all
workers. While (social) entrepreneurs, strategic leaders, and independent workers have been
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
neglected in OB research on IFS, the changing nature of work and organizations (Barley et al.,
2017; Burke and Ng, 2006) means they are becoming increasingly common and deserve more
attention to identify how they can best seek feedback.
5.4. Limitations and future directions
Acknowledging the limitations of the research, we present our findings as an early step in
exploring how SEs navigate the IFS process through sensemaking to protect their identities or
image. First, this study focused only on IFS to gain rich insights about this phenomenon from
SEs’ perspective, and so neglected feedback giving. Future research should examine how those
approached for feedback respond to requests. For example, participating SEs considered how
IFS can be perceived by others in a positive or negative light. Future research can examine
more directly how stakeholders (e.g., employees, customers) perceive founders’ IFS and what
judgments they make about (social) entrepreneurs, which will also complement the current
focus on investors’ perceptions (Warnick et al., 2018).
Second, our analysis presents the three IFS trajectories as mostly separate, yet it is possible
that they overlap or that SEs transition from one trajectory to another. Two aspects of our data
suggest potential overlaps and transitions. The first is that some SEs on the community-oriented
(i.e., Clinton, Calvin) and opportunity-oriented (e.g., Andrew, Samantha) trajectories also
sought feedback on topics aligned with the entrepreneur-oriented trajectory (e.g., related to
performance as an entrepreneur). While these were specific, isolated incidents, instead of fully
formed trajectories with multiple interactions of a consistent pattern, they suggest that SEs can
potentially have secondary IFS trajectories.
The second aspect is that Sandra showed signs of transitioning from the opportunity-
oriented to the community-oriented trajectory during data collection. Having started her social
venture to earn a living after redundancy and holding a very strong salient identity as a teacher
of young people with disabilities, her community membership became more prominent in her
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
narrative during the six months of interviews. Shifts were apparent in how she described her
social venture (i.e., from specialist music provision for young people with disabilities to a
community hub) and the targeted social issue (i.e., from limited music-making opportunities
for young people with disabilities to a lack of community cohesion). However, no other
participant exhibited a transition between trajectories. This is potentially due to the limited
timeframe of our datasix months for most participants, and no longer than eight months
(Angela J). Given the importance of start-up motivations and SEsidentities in our findings,
changes in venture focus and identities within such short timeframes are highly unlikely, so
robust evidence for transitions between trajectories was unlikely to emerge within the timeline
of our data collection.
Future research can examine when and how SEs combine or transition between IFS
trajectories and with what outcomes for themselves as individuals with diverse identities and
for their social ventures. This would be a particularly fruitful research area with serial or
portfolio (social) entrepreneurs, who may have different salient identities and start-up
motivations across their ventures, thus allowing the examination of enabling and hindering
factors when transitioning between and combining trajectories.
5. Conclusion
This article uncovers the IFS process as identity-driven and shows that SEs navigate this
process and its challenges through sensemaking. SEs’ sensemaking patterns are shaped by their
psychological distance from the targeted social issue. Our study gives new insights into the
relationship between identity and feedback processes with a focus on the agency in and plurality
of IFS. It demonstrates the importance of psychological distance from the social issue in social
venturing in relation to IFS and sensemaking with potential links to the type of social change
strategies, forms of mission drift, and resource acquisition. Implications for OB research on
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
IFS are also offered, specifically a new theoretical lens and a new construct to enrich under-
standing of how and why individuals seek feedback differently from one another and over time.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
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Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
IFS trajectory
Local Sights
Already sell
Ready to sell
A to Z
Pet Partners
Daniel H
Already sell
For Mums
Already sell
Eat Well
Already sell
Life with
Angela J
Able Waves
Already sell
All personal names are replaced with pseudonyms to protect the identity of the participants.
Previously started (alone or with others) a commercial, environmental, or social enterprise.
All enterprise names are replaced with pseudonyms to protect the identity of the participants.
Includes full and part-time employees.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
IFS trajectory
A Million
Ready to sell
Dance for
Already sell
Daniel S
Easy Green
Already sell
Already sell
for Today
Already sell
Josie H
Already sell
Already sell
Age Better
Ready to sell
Youth En-
Josie B
and Train-
ing Services
Ready to sell
No to
Already sell
New Media
Already sell
Serious Play
Angela N
Baby Steps
Already sell
Table 1. Participant characteristics.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Fig. 1. Progressive data structure.
Social Entrepreneurs’ Interpersonal Feedback Seeking
Note: Social entrepreneurs’ identities and psychological distance from the targeted social issues shape the purpose behind their feedback seeking and, in turn, define
their expectations of IFS. These expectations make specific challenges salient, which trigger sensemaking through interpretation and enactment to protect
provisional identities, reaffirm established identities, and protect image.
Fig. 2. Model of interpersonal feedback-seeking trajectories.
... It finds that social entrepreneurs seek feedback in different directions: downward (e.g., employees), horizontally (e.g., partners), and outward (e.g., community leaders) (Corner & Ho, 2010;Katre & Salipante, 2012;Smith et al., 2012). Social entrepreneurs can seek feedback to solicit ideas, opinions, and complaints when refining opportunities for new social enterprises (Katre & Salipante 2012), meeting stakeholder needs and learning (Drencheva et al., 2021), or developing trust and networks (Katre & Salipante, 2012;Smith et al., 2012). IFS, or alternatively labeled "giving voice", can aid the emergence and scaling of social enterprises and help to avoid mission drift (André & Pache, 2016). ...
... First, feedback is evaluative information, while advice is general information about how to approach tasks (Phye, 1991). This is important because feedback has consequences for one's identity (Conger et al., 2018;Drencheva et al., 2021) which, in turn, shapes the strategic direction of the organization (Powell & Baker, 2014). Second, research on (social) entrepreneurs' social networks focuses on information relevant to the company, but neglects information relevant to the entrepreneur, such as leadership capacity, which is an important aspect of feedback. ...
... Cognitive appraisal explains how individuals continuously evaluate what is happening in terms of implications for their wellbeing. This is relevant for feedback, as evaluative information that is different from other types of information, because feedback is personal by definition and thus with implications for one's wellbeing and identity (Drencheva et al., 2021). This lens helped us to develop theoretical dimensions and see the links between different second-order themes. ...
Full-text available
Social entrepreneurs need resources to develop their organizations and catalyze social impact. Existing research focuses on how social entrepreneurs access and use resources, yet it neglects how they search for resource holders. This issue is particularly salient in social entrepreneurs’ decisions about whom to approach for interpersonal feedback as a valuable resource. The current literature offers lists of individuals whom social entrepreneurs approach for feedback and implies these individuals can be easily accessed. Thus, it offers little insight into how social entrepreneurs select whom to approach for feedback and why, or why they struggle to access feedback. We conducted an in-depth inductive study based on 82 interviews with 36 nascent social entrepreneurs to investigate how they search for and select individuals to approach for feedback within and outside their social networks through an iterative appraisal process. Our findings start to open the black box of searching for resource holders in the resource mobilization process and offer insights on power and stigma in social entrepreneurship.
... Although we find a literature on sensemaking in social enterprises, none of this research addresses sensemaking in conditions of crisis, which present a specific context that increases the demands on actors to interpret and make sense of ongoing events. In particular, previous studies point to the sensemaking of what constitutes a social problem (Kimmitt and Muñoz, 2018), the sensemaking of interpersonal feedback seeking (Drencheva et al., 2021) or the sensemaking of hybrid organization and dual social enterprise goals (Reynolds and Holt, 2021;Cornelissen at al., 2020;Corner and Pavlovich, 2014;Pellegrini et al., 2020). In this respect, the study by Child (2019) represents an important shift in understanding the sensemaking of social enterprises, showing that although we find descriptions of the paradoxical and problematic nature of social entrepreneurship in scholarly discourse, social entrepreneurs are able to perceive their situation as non-paradoxical through frames such as looking at the big picture, engaging with potentially problematic issues and making favorable comparisons. ...
Purpose Drawing on Weick’s sensemaking perspective, this study aims to describe how Czech social entrepreneurs shape the shared meaning of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and what approaches to the crisis the sensemaking process leads to. Design/methodology/approach This study is based on the principles of grounded theory. Through in-depth interviews with 25 social entrepreneurs, it captures the entrepreneurs’ experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of their understanding of social enterprise identity. Interviews with experts in the field of social entrepreneurship were also conducted to help achieve a deeper analysis of the entrepreneurial cases. Findings Results of research show that despite the obstacles, most social entrepreneurs arrive at a positive redescription of the crisis. Enterprises not affected by the pandemic adopt a conventional approach. The most vulnerable enterprises are paralyzed and wait with uncertainty for future developments in their enterprise’s situation. Practical implications As knowledge of vulnerabilities is a key prerequisite for crisis prevention, this research can serve as a useful material for business incubators and other institutions that provide mentoring and expertise to start-up social entrepreneurs including focus on crisis management implementation. Originality/value This study complements the theory of crisis sensemaking with the level of social entrepreneurship, which is characterized by a dichotomy of social and business goals that results in a specific shared meaning of identity which is tied to perceptions of vulnerabilities. This study describes the influence of perceived identity on coping with a crisis.
... This meant checking the transcripts to make sure the main themes were identified, and the meanings were analysed in the appropriate way. Each transcript was read then the data coded based on specific topics (Drencheva, Stephan, Patterson, & Topakas, 2021). New topics emerged and were then analysed in order to make sure the information in the transcripts was reflected in the data codes (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013). ...
There has been an increased usage and popularity of digital platforms during the COVID-19 crisis. This has resulted in many new types of digital platforms emerging that are tied to specific localities and based on emergent needs. This article presents the results of a study on the ClickforVic digital platform that was started during the first 2020 lockdown in Melbourne, Australia as a way for country farmers to connect with urban consumers. The study is premised on transformational entrepreneurship theory that enables a focus on the societal changes that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. A semi-structured in-depth interview approach was utilised to understand how farm entrepreneurs perceived the digital platform and how this contributed to transformational entrepreneurship outcomes. The study is amongst the first to incorporate a digital platform, farm entrepreneurship, transformational entrepreneurship and COVID-19 perspective. The findings suggest that farm entrepreneurs are driven by financial, social and community goals during a crisis that influences their usage of digital platforms. As a consequence, the findings contribute to managerial practice and policy debate by highlighting the way digital platforms can be used in times of crisis to produce transformational entrepreneurship outcomes.
... Entrepreneurs may adjust their course in response to performance feedback, that is, upon realizing that their performance is above or below aspirations (Domurath, Patzelt and Liebl, 2020;Piening et al., 2021). They can also decide to make changes after receiving interpersonal feedback from investors, mentors, customers, or peer entrepreneurs (Balachandra, Sapienza and Kim, 2014;Barney et al., 1996;Drencheva et al., 2021;Krishnan et al., 2021;Lahti, 2014;Leatherbee and Katila, 2020). The focus of this paper lies on interpersonal feedback. ...
Full-text available
Entrepreneurs' responses to feedback are in part determined by how the interactions during which they receive it unfold. Prior studies primarily discuss feedback interactions between entrepreneurs and their mentors or trusted advisors. As a result of this focus on longstanding relationships, there is limited knowledge of 'early' meetings-conversations between feedback providers and entrepreneurs who do not know each other well-and the ways in which these shape the relationship between the interactants, as well as the way feedback is received. Our analysis of 54 early feedback interactions suggests that changes in epistemic stance and alignment influence whether there is affiliation, that is, affective cooperation, between entrepreneurs and feedback providers. We theorize that affiliation is necessary for early feedback interactions to develop into longstanding feedback relationships .
... The number of interviews was determined based on theoretical saturation (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). We used an inductive approach that has previously been used to explore how questions regarding entrepreneur's experience (Drencheva, Stephan, Patterson, & Topakas, 2021). ...
Full-text available
Sport is one of the most international industries in the world and relies on entrepreneur-ship to ensure its competitiveness. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport industry had to rapidly change and adjust to international border closures and reduced physical contact activity. Many people involved in the sport industry are located outside of their home country and form part of the diaspora network of sport professionals. The diaspora is highly active in the sport industry in terms of disseminating ideas and utilizing their social networks for international entrepreneurial purposes. The aim of this article is to examine the impact of the diaspora on international sport entrepreneurship thereby contributing a novel approach to the international entrepreneurship, sport entrepreneurship and diaspora entrepreneurship fields in a way that has not been contemplated before. A qualitative research methodology is employed to interview sport entrepreneurs about their diaspora and international entrepreneurship activities. This enables a holistic understanding about the role of international public/private partnerships for the success of innovative and futuristic entrepreneurial sport activity. A theoretical framework based on the interview data was developed that incorporated a three-level process of international drivers, dias-pora types and sport entrepreneurship outcomes. A number of research propositions were then derived from the data that highlight how the sport industry is highly international and relies on internationalization to foster new business activity. Policy and managerial implications about the role of diaspora for international sport entrepreneurship are highlighted together with future research suggestions.
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Individuals start and join social enterprises to catalyze social impact but may not subjectively experience their work as impactful. In this article, we inductively uncover when social enterprise members question the impactfulness of their work and how they engage in sensemaking to experience their work as impactful. Exploring the experiences of members across two social enterprises with different missions, we provide insights into instances creating ambiguity of or discrepancies in impactfulness and unearth how individuals navigate these in different circumstances with two distinct sensemaking practices: internalizing and compensating. We reveal the efforts required to experience work as impactful, highlight the heterogeneity and agency in maintaining this perception, and suggest a potential dark side for members and missions of social enterprises.
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This article explains how construal level theory (CLT) expand knowledge of management sciences related to the effect of psychological distance on the organization's stakeholders. This work also highlights different limits of this framework and sets out a research agenda to overcome them. The main limits concern 1) a lack of precision regarding the modification of construal level as a function of psychological distance; 2) a prevalence of research on temporal and social distance to retranscribe the effects of a psychological distance theorized as a global concept; 3) numerous inconsistencies regarding multiple distances. Managerial implications are also suggested to handle the psychological distance of the stakeholders. Cet article explique comment la théorie des niveaux de représentation développe les connaissances en sciences de gestion relatives à l'influence de la distance psychologique sur le comportement des parties prenantes de l'organisation. Ce travail soulève, également, différentes limites de cette théorie et dresse un agenda de recherche visant à les dépasser. Les principales limites concernent 1) le manque de précision quant au processus de modification du niveau de représentation en fonction de la distance psychologique; 2) la prédominance de l’étude de la distance temporelle et sociale pour retranscrire les effets d'un concept théorisé comme étant global; 3) les nombreuses incohérences concernant les distances multiples. Les implications managériales sont également proposées pour gérer la distance psychologique des parties prenantes.
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Entrepreneurship can provide personal fulfillment but is uniquely poised to also provoke emotional suffering. Scholarly attention on negative moods and emotions (affect) in entrepreneurship has gained momentum, yet reviews to date have focused on the consequences of affect while our understanding of its antecedents remains fragmented. This neglect is concerning as the conditions that trigger negative emotions are consequential to entrepreneurial cognition, behavior, and well-being. In the current article, we synthesize the findings of 52 empirical sources that contribute to our knowledge of the antecedents of negative affect during entrepreneurship activity. This results in a framework of entrepreneurs’ negative affective antecedents organized by (1) the temporary state of the self, (2) the entrepreneurial occupation, (3) interactions with others, and (4) venture circumstances. Overall, this systematic effort contextualizes affect in entrepreneurship and provides a roadmap for future research that is more closely representative of the diverse lived experiences of entrepreneurs.
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Social entrepreneurship (SE) is acknowledged as a valuable tool for tackling social problems. Whereas SE intention (SEI) is considered an important prerequisite for founding a social enterprise , empirical research on SEI-antecedents lacks structure and quantitative integration. We use a newly developed framework featuring individual-, social-, and economic-level antecedents of SEI to summarize prior research on SEI in a meta-analysis (k = 21; N = 8697). Results show that our framework is empirically feasible , as significant effects of individual, social, and economic variables on SEI emerge. Furthermore, we find that the national economic stage, sample composition, and SEI-measurement act as moderators.
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Social enterprises have long been considered ideal settings for studying hybrid organizing due to their combination of social and economic goals and activities. In this chapter, we argue that the current research focus on hybrid organizing foregrounds the paradox, conflicting logics, and multiple identities associated with the pursuit of multiple goals but underappreciates the relationship between hybrid organizing and its institutional context. Recognizing that the primary objective of social enterprises is to tackle social problems, we introduce the social problem domain as an analytically useful and theoretically interesting meso-level to examine the role of context for hybrid organizing and to advance conversations on hybridity in organizational theory. Social problem domains offer insights into the political, cultural, and material differences in how various societies deal with social problems, which in turn affects hybrid organizing. We provide empirical insights derived from an analysis of social enterprises across three countries and social problem domains. We show how the institutional arrangements of social enterprises differ considerably across contexts, and how these arrangements affect how social enterprises become more or less similar compared to traditional ways of organizing in these problem domains. Based on these findings, we outline a research agenda on social enterprises that focuses on examining the nature, antecedents, and outcomes of hybrid organizing around social problems across multiple levels of analysis. With this chapter, we move the focus of social enterprise research in organizational theory from studying how these organizations cope with multiple logics and goals toward studying how they engage in markets for public purpose.
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This research examines how potential backers form mental representations of products in reward-based crowdfunding campaigns, and how these representations affect funding decisions and campaign performance. To test our framework, we conducted four experiments and also drew on a sample of 961 Kickstarter campaigns. Our results show that two campaign characteristics – the product's development stage and the indicated time to product delivery – determine the psychological distance that supporters experience in response to a campaign, and that psychological distance, in turn, inhibits individual campaign contributions and cumulative campaign success. Furthermore, we find that encouraging supporters to imagine the benefits of product usage is an effective means to increase support for campaigns that elicit high psychological distance.
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Scholars have long debated how rigor can be achieved in qualitative analysis. To answer this question, we need to better understand how theory is generated from data. Qualitative analysis is, at its core, a categorization process. Nevertheless, despite a surge of interest in categorization within the social sciences, insights from categorization theory have not yet been applied to our understanding of qualitative analysis. Drawing from categorization theory, we argue that the movement from data to theory is an active process in which researchers choose between multiple moves that help them to make sense of their data. In addition, we develop a framework of the main moves that people use when they categorize data and demonstrate that evidence of these moves can also be found in past qualitative scholarship. Our framework emphasizes that if we are not sufficiently reflexive and explicit about the active analytical processes that generate theoretical insights, we cannot be transparent and, thus, rigorous about how we analyze data. We discuss the implications of our framework for increasing rigor in qualitative analysis, for actively constructing categories from data, and for spurring more methodological plurality within qualitative theory building.
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In this paper, we review the burgeoning but dispersed literature on CEO advice seeking, which has important effects on strategic decision making, the CEO’s and the board of directors’ effectiveness, and firms’ entrepreneurial orientation, innovativeness, and financial performance. We synthesize research findings about the key features of CEO advice seeking and its antecedents and outcomes across multiple levels of analysis. Based on our review, we identify important research gaps and develop a future research agenda that outlines new research questions and empirical foci that extend the current scope of analysis. We also highlight promising new theories and underutilized methods suitable for this area of research. With an integrative review and research agenda, we hope to stimulate cross-fertilization of different lines of inquiry and to encourage new research that shines a spotlight on the remaining puzzles of CEO advice-seeking research.
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The growing number of studies which reference the concept of mission drift imply that such drift is an undesirable strategic outcome related to inconsistent organizational action, yet beyond such references little is known about how mission drift occurs, how it impacts organizations, and how organizations should respond. Existing management theory more broadly offers initial albeit equivocal insight for understanding mission drift. On the one hand, prior studies have argued that inconsistent or divergent action can lead to weakened stakeholder commitment and reputational damage. On the other hand, scholars have suggested that because environments are complex and dynamic, such action is necessary for ensuring organizational adaptation and thus survival. In this study, we offer a theory of mission drift that unpacks its origin, clarifies its variety, and specifies how organizations might respond to external perceptions of mission drift. The resulting conceptual model addresses the aforementioned theoretical tension and offers novel insight into the relationship between organizational actions and identity.
Founders of hybrid ventures encounter organizational tensions that can compel compromise in both their organizations' and their own personal values. Such compromises may, in turn, undermine founders' identification with their ventures. In a multi-case study analysis we examine why social entrepreneurs differ in their responses to organizational tensions, both at the firm- and individual-level, and how such differences relate to their venture identification. Specifically, our findings reveal that strategic decisions made in the context of values-based complexity are often accompanied by concerns regarding founder authenticity—that is, judgments about the alignment between founders' actions and the commitments or responsibilities associated with their identities as entrepreneurs. Yet, because founders differ in the basis from which they seek to maintain such alignment, these differences shape both hybridity management and subsequent venture identification. By unpacking such differences, our findings contribute new theory, bridging recent scholarship on founder authenticity with longstanding research on organizational identification and hybrid organizing.
Research has shown founders' identities have a significant impact on their ventures. Yet, the process through which founder identity evolves and takes shape remains relatively unexplained. This paper explores the evolution of founder identity through a qualitative study of first-time sustainable entrepreneurs, and their stakeholders, over a three years period. Our analysis revealed the importance of personal identity, the aspect of the self that defines a person as a unique individual based largely on values and beliefs. We found that first-time founders sought to align their personal identity with their evolving founder identity over time. Based on these findings we theorize a process model of founder authenticity work, defined as the activities founders engage in to feel and seem authentic while engaged in entrepreneurial action. This study thus details the significance of personal identity as a guidepost for founder identity evolution, complementing extant founder identity studies focused on role and social identities. In addition, our analysis enriches the current conceptualization of authenticity in entrepreneurship research by linking it to validation of personal identity and highlighting its negotiated nature in the evolution of authentic founder identities.
Science communication aims to motivate action on climate change. We examined the usefulness of two related communication strategies: proximising climate change with news focussing on local impacts, and bridging psychological distance by raising the salience of people's global identity as part of humanity. We first examined the often implicitly assumed process underlying proximising, namely reducing the psychological socio-spatial distance of climate change, which in turn might make the issue more relevant for people, which in turn might promote behavioural engagement. Second, we argued that when people consider themselves as part of a global society, proximising may not be necessary as people perceive the relevance of distant impacts. We conducted an experiment with UK residents (N = 400) with two between subjects factors: proximity of communication on climate change (proximal or distant) and global identity salience (communicated or not). Communicating proximity (vs. distance) via a news text on climate change consequences for either the UK or Bangladesh reduced the psychological socio-spatial distance of climate change and indirectly predicted climate protective behaviour through lower psychological socio-spatial distance and higher relevance attribution. While these indirect relations were small, stronger relations might arise if people repeatedly receive local information. Participants for whom global identity was made salient (using a video showing a man dancing with people all over the world) exhibited no decreases in evaluating the relevance of the news text as their psychological socio-spatial distance of climate change increased (compared to those who viewed a control video). This indicates that global identity salience can bridge the psychological socio-spatial distance of climate change. We conclude that it is useful to report local consequences of climate change, or to communicate global connectedness if global consequences of climate change are described.