Sub-theme 74: The Dark Side of Social Innovation: Antecedents, Pathways, and Consequences

Madeline Toubiana
University of Ottowa, Canada
Sophie Bacq
Indiana University, USA
Bryant A. Hudson
IÉSEG School of Management, France

Call for Papers

There has been increasing interest in the ways in which social innovation, be it through movements, entrepreneurship, or intrapreneurship, can help solve society’s grand challenges and help us better organize for “the good life” (Bacq & Janssen, 2011; Barberá-Tomás et al., 2019; Battilana, Besharov, & Mitzinneck, 2017; Chrispal, Bapuji, & Zietsma, 2021; Dorado & Ventresca, 2013; Ferraro, Etzion, & Gehman, 2015; Lawrence, 2017; Mair, Battilana, & Cardenas, 2012; Montgomery & Dacin, 2019; Tracey & Stott, 2017; Vacquier, Hudson, & Roulet, 2021). This work has led to a wealth of insights on the ways in which such social innovation can be fostered and enabled. Within this work, however, there has been a tendency to ignore the dark places, spaces and feelings that can fuel or hamper social innovation.
Yes, compassion and empathy can inspire and fuel social entrepreneurs and innovators (Bacq & Alt, 2018) – but what about anger, rage, despair, or fear (Zietsma & Toubiana, 2019)? Indeed, the classic stories we hear of social entrepreneurs are often of “heroes” who have come to save the less fortunate (Bacq, Hartog, & Hoogendoorn, 2016; Seelos & Mair, 2005). Yet, entrepreneurs can also operate in the shadows, and their stories, while often ignored, can reveal important new pathways to social innovation. How might we, thus, expand our understanding of what triggers, but also who conducts, social innovation to outline novel mechanisms for positive social change?
In addition, while exploring how social innovation can be inspired out of darkness, we also want to encourage discussion about how “bad” can come out of “good” intentions. Indeed, as we pointed out, most of the social innovation literature to date has focused on the positive effects of good intentions by social innovation heroes, leaving the unintended consequences of social innovation overlooked. We know that change driven by outsiders can backfire (Khan, Munir, & Willmott, 2007; Phung et al., 2021), and yet, the research on social innovation tends to avoid explicating how and when this takes place.
As such, in this sub-theme, we are interested in examining both (1) the unexpected, hidden and forgotten drivers of social innovation that go unnoticed because they operate in the shadows or come out of darker places, and (2) the unintended, disregarded and ignored harmful consequences of positive socially-driven initiatives. This includes the study of different social innovators, those traditionally marginalized, stigmatized or operating at the margins of societies, and different pathways to social innovation, imagining alternative mechanisms and drivers of change, and cautioning against potentially harmful practices. In short, we are interested in revealing the good from the bad and the bad from the good to provide a more balanced account of the social innovation scholarship.
The following are examples of questions that this sub-theme might explore, but we welcome a broad spectrum of papers exploring these issues:

  • What types of entrepreneurship and innovation have we been ignoring by only looking at that which occurs outside of the shadows?

  • Which kinds of entrepreneurship and innovation are still taboo in organization studies?

  • What role might shame and stigma have in shaping social innovation in the shadows?

  • Besides prosocial motivations, what are some of the unexamined darker drivers of social innovation?

  • If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, what values and emotions become drivers of unexpected harmful outcomes?

  • Can bad intentions lead to positive outcomes?

  • How do social innovators’ institutional biographies shape their engagement with that which is in the shadows, and/or their efforts to move entrepreneurship and innovation out of the shadows?

  • What are negative outcomes of social innovation that scholars have failed to explore?

  • What are some corrective mechanisms that help address the darker sides of social innovation?

  • How do distinct institutional environments shape the possibilities and distinct pathways to social innovation?

  • What are some harmful consequences of the methodologies used in social innovation scholarship?

  • How might our institutional biographies as scholars shape our research engagement with the dark side?



  • Bacq, S., & Alt, E. (2018): “Feeling capable and valued: A prosocial perspective on the link between empathy and social entrepreneurial intentions.” Journal of Business Venturing, 33 (3), 333–350.
  • Bacq, S., Hartog, C., & Hoogendoorn, B. (2016): “Beyond the moral portrayal of social entrepreneurs: An empirical approach to who they are and what drives them.” Journal of Business Ethics, 133 (4), 703–718.
  • Bacq, S., & Janssen, F. (2011): “The multiple faces of social entrepreneurship: A review of definitional issues based on geographical and thematic criteria.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 23 (5–6), 373–403.
  • Barberá-Tomás, D., Castelló, I., De Bakker, F.G., & Zietsma, C. (2019): “Energizing through visuals: How social entrepreneurs use emotion-symbolic work for social change.” Academy of Management Journal, 62(6), 1789–1817.
  • Battilana, J., Besharov, M., & Mitzinneck, B. (2017): “On hybrids and hybrid organizing: A review and roadmap for future research.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T.B. Lawrence, & R.E. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, 133–169.
  • Chrispal, S., Bapuji, H., & Zietsma, C. (2021): “Caste and organization studies: Our silence makes us complicit.” Organization Studies, 42 (9), 1501–1515.
  • Dorado, S., & Ventresca, M.J. (2013): “Crescive entrepreneurship in complex social problems: Institutional conditions for entrepreneurial engagement.” Journal of Business Venturing, 28 (1), 69–82.
  • Ferraro, F., Etzion, D., & Gehman, J. (2015): “Tackling grand challenges pragmatically: Robust action revisited.” Organization Studies, 36 (3), 363–390.
  • Khan, F.R., Munir, K.A., & Willmott, H. (2007): “A dark side of institutional Entrepreneurship: Soccer balls, child labour and postcolonial impoverishment.” Organization Studies, 28 (7), 1055–1077.
  • Lawrence, T.B. (2017): “High stakes institutional translation: Establishing North America’s first government-sanctioned supervised injection site.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (5), 1771–1800.
  • Mair, J., Battilana, J., & Cardenas, J. (2012): “Organizing for society: A typology of social entrepreneuring models.” Journal of Business Ethics, 111 (3), 353–373.
  • Montgomery, A.W., & Dacin, M.T. (2019): “Water wars in Detroit: Custodianship and the work of institutional renewal.” Academy of Management Journal, 63 (5), 1455–1484.
  • Phung, K., Buchanan, S., Toubiana, M., Ruebottom, T., & Turchick‐Hakak, L. (2021): “When stigma doesn’t transfer: Stigma deflection and occupational stratification in the sharing economy.” Journal of Management Studies, 58 (4), 1107–1139.
  • Ruebottom, T., & Toubiana, M. (2021): “Constraints and opportunities of stigma: Entrepreneurial emancipation in the sex industry.” Academy of Management Journal, 64 (4), 1049–1077.
  • Seelos, C., & Mair, J. (2005): “Social entrepreneurship: Creating new business models to serve the poor.” Business Horizons, 48 (3), 241–246.
  • Slade Shantz, A., Kistruck, G., & Zietsma, C. (2018): “The opportunity not taken: Institutional barriers to entrepreneurial innovation and growth in contexts of poverty.” Journal of Business Venturing, 33 (4), 416–437.
  • Tracey, P., & Stott, N. (2017): “Social innovation: A window on alternative ways of organizing and innovating.” Innovation, 19 (1), 51–60.
  • Vacquier, R., Hudson, B.A., & Roulet, T. (2021): “Shelter or ghetto? Stigmatization and the narrative around the creation of a LGBT retirement home.” Academy of Management Proceedings, 2021 (1),
  • Zietsma, C., & Toubiana, M. (2019): “Emotions as the glue, the fuel and the rust of social innovation.” In: G. George, T. Baker, P. Tracey & H. Joshi (eds.): Handbook of Inclusive Innovation: The Role of Organizations, Markets and Communities in Social Innovation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 322–341.
Madeline Toubiana is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada, and the Desmarais Chair in Entrepreneurship. Her research is focused on processes of social change with a specific interest in the role of entrepreneurship, emotions and stigma in hindering or supporting social transformation and innovation. Madeline’s research has been published in ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Academy Management Review’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Annual Review of Sociology,’ among others.
Sophie Bacq is an Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, and an Institute for Entrepreneurship & Competitive Enterprise Faculty Fellow at The Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, USA. Sophie investigates and theorizes about entrepreneurial action aiming to solve intractable social and environmental problems at the individual, organizational, and civic levels of analysis. Her recent research centers on social entrepreneurship, societal impact, and civic wealth creation. Sophie’s research has been published in the top-tier management and entrepreneurship journals.
Bryant A. Hudson is a Full Professor of Management at IÉSEG School of Management in Paris, France. He studies organizations that serve the marginalized, including managing organizational stigma, stigmatized emotions in institutional processes, organizational scandals, and knowledge taboos in a variety of contexts, including gay and lesbian organizations, animal rights organizations, and major national industries; he also studies processes of inhabitation of institutions. Bryant’s work appears in the ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’, ‘M@n@gement’, ‘Journal of International Management’, ‘International Studies in Management and Organization’, and ‘Organization’.