Social Enterprise Intermediaries as Paradigm-Building Actors: towards Innovation or Isomorphism?

Project: Research project

Project Details


Intermediary organizations, including incubators, capacity-building organizations, and accelerators, have mushroomed as important institutional actor that supports the creation and development of social enterprises. Recognizing social enterprises as a responsive and innovative way to deliver public services, governments often use intermediaries to bridge the void between social enterprises and public funding, in the hope that this will create a supportive infrastructure for social enterprises. In this process, intermediaries act as ‘brokers’ who can make important resources accessible to social enterprises that are not as well connected. An emerging but limited body of literature has highlighted the supporting role of intermediaries in promoting social enterprises, for example, by providing training, coaching, and consultancy services to social enterprises and connecting them with other actors to drive collaborations. What has been overlooked is the role of intermediaries as paradigm-builders who can be very influential with their rich resources in building new institutional norms, values, and discourses around social enterprises, for example, by propagating their own definitions of social enterprises, determining what constitutes legitimate practices, and promoting preferred models of social enterprises through incubation and competitions. Such a field-shaping role of intermediaries may have significant implications for the institutional field of social enterprises, and by virtue, organizational practices and behaviours. To address the research gaps, this study draws on the neo-institutional theory and proposes two studies focusing on Hong Kong as the research site.

Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
Effective start/end date01/01/2430/06/26


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