Research Summary

How the process of institutional entrepreneurship unfolds

by Julie Battilana


When attempting to implement change that diverges from the institutional status quo, institutional entrepreneurs face the specific challenge of having to convince others to adopt practices that are not only new to them but also diverge from the norms in their institutional environment. How can they meet this challenge? The second stream of research in Professor Battilana’s work aims to address this question. She has done so in two recent studies. The first study, which she conducted with Silvia Dorado, examines the creation and sustainability of the first two private commercial microfinance organizations created in Bolivia. Commercial microfinance organizations provide loans to low-income entrepreneurs under market conditions. They combine the development logic that guides their mission to help the poor on the one hand, with the banking logic that dictates that the interest rates they charge generate profits sufficient to enable them to fulfill their fiduciary obligations, on the other hand. In combining the development and banking logics in such an unprecedented way, the first commercial microfinance organizations diverged from the existing organizational archetypes of both banks and not-for-profit microfinance organizations, thereby acting as institutional entrepreneurs. This study explores how these commercial microfinance organizations, which were new types of hybrid organizations (organizations that combined institutional logics in unprecedented ways), developed and maintained their hybrid nature in the absence of "ready-to-wear" organizational archetypes. The study identifies hiring and socialization policies as crucial levers for the development of an organizational identity that can sustain novel combinations of logics over time. In doing so, it contributes to better understanding how organizations that depart from existing organizational archetypes can mobilize their organizational members to support such departures.

In the second empirical project, Professor Battilana is currently further exploring the challenges of coalition building in the implementation of change that diverges from the institutional status quo. Using data on 68 organizational change initiatives conducted at the NHS, she examines, with Tiziana Casciaro, how change agents leverage their social capital when implementing such change. More specifically, the study examines the influence of change agents’ position in intra-organizational networks on their likelihood to succeed in implementing change in general, as well as change that diverges from the institutional status quo.