Sub-theme 66: Social Innovation at a Crossroads: Organizing and Collaborating for Shared Value

Maria Chiara Di Guardo
University of Cagliari, Italy
Esther Leibel
Boston University, USA
Elona Marku
University of Cagliari, Italy

Call for Papers

Social and environmental challenges have risen in prominence in both societal and academic discussions, offering opportunities to pursue and study social innovation (Henderson, 2021). Integral to the notion of social innovation are the goals of creating shared value, i.e., collective social value and achieving significant transformation in society (Logue, 2019), especially in relation to the “grand challenges” of our time, including sustainability, climate change, natural resource depletion, poverty, healthcare crisis, and social and economic inequality (Ferraro, Etzion, & Gehman, 2015; George, Howard-Grenville, Joshi & Tihanyi, 2016).
While management scholars have prioritized market-oriented frameworks to examine the dynamics of social innovation, recent studies have pointed to alternative options for creating shared value (Beckman, Rosen, Estrada-Miller, & Painter, Working Paper). These alternative arrangements combine the strengths of market and non-market actors, including the public sector (e.g., governments and government-run organizations), and civil society (e.g., community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations). For instance, for-profit organizations typically have higher incentives to innovate and are more efficient, governments are better at regulating public issues, and nonprofits are more trustworthy when representing collective interests (Luo & Kaul, 2019). At the same time, the pursuit of social innovation and shared value requires drastic changes to the strategy, structure, and culture of for-profit organizations, as well as in the way leaders conceptualize, communicate, and demonstrate organizational purpose to their employees (Gulati, 2022).
Organizations interested in pursuing social innovation are then at a crossroads: On the one hand, they need to collaborate and leverage the strengths of actors from the private sector, the public sector, and civil society to achieve scale and increase their impact in tackling complex and systemic issues (Beckman et al., Working Paper); on the other hand, they need to develop effective strategies and to organize internally to tackle the “grand challenges” of our time. A better understanding of internal organizational processes, as well as of the dynamics of external collaborations can unveil novel strategies, tools, and implementation mechanisms to respond to these complex social issues and to create shared value through social innovation.
Possible topics for submission include but are not limited to:

  • How do social entrepreneurship (efforts of new enterprises), social intrapreneurship (efforts by existing organizations), and social extrapreneurship (collaborative efforts) (Tracey & Stott, 2017) uniquely and collectively contribute to social innovation?

  • Under what conditions do collaborations for social innovation among the private sector, the public sector, and civil society thrive or fail?

  • When do market mechanisms (e.g., social entrepreneurship) advance social innovation and when are we better-off with non-market mechanisms (e.g., cooperative model, community involvement)?

  • How can we develop more inclusive social innovation both inside and outside organizations?

  • How do different understandings of social innovation influence goals and organizing modes?

  • What internal structural and governance changes are required for organizations to effectively pursue social innovation?

  • How does the pursuit of social innovation change the culture of organizations?

We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions that adopt diverse theoretical lenses, including studies that draw on organizational theory, organizational behavior, strategy, entrepreneurship, sociology, and public policy. We are interested in papers that use both quantitative and qualitative approaches and encourage the submission of research that uses new methods, novel data, and spans across multiple levels of analysis to enrich the empirical research base in this field.


  • Beckman, C. M., Rosen, J., Estrada-Miller, J., Painter, G. The Social Innovation Trap: Critical Insights into an Emerging Field, Working Paper.
  • Ferraro, F., Etzion, D., & Gehman, J. 2015. Tackling grand challenges pragmatically: Robust action revisited. Organization Studies, 36(3): 363-390.
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016). Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59(6): 1880-1895.
  • Gulati, R. (2022). Deep purpose: The heart and soul of high-performance companies. Penguin UK.
  • Henderson. R. (2020). Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. New York, Hachette Public Affairs.
  • Logue, D. (2019). Theories of social innovation. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Luo, J., & Kaul, A. (2019). Private action in public interest: The comparative governance of social issues. Strategic Management Journal, 40(4), 476-502.
  • Tracey, P., & Stott, N. (2017). Social innovation: a window on alternative ways of organizing and innovating. Innovation, 19(1): 51-60.
Maria Chiara Di Guardo is a Full Professor of Innovation Management and Organization Studies at the University of Cagliari, Italy. She is also Head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (CREA-UniCa), and Director of the CLab-UniCa at the same university. Maria Chiara’s research focuses on how to organize efficiently the innovation process as well as the relationship between innovation and entrepreneurship.
Esther Leibel is an Assistant Professor of Strategy & Innovation at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, USA. Her research employs ethnographic and linguistic methods to study the socio-cognitive dynamics of social innovation, with a focus on development of sustainable local food systems.
Elona Marku is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Department of Economics and Business at the University of Cagliari, Italy. Her research focuses on the management of innovation and technology and the implications of these for firm performance. Current projects investigate the dynamics related to digital transformation, the opportunities arising from emerging technologies, and the role of women in nascent entrepreneurship.