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Organizing Ecosystems for Social Innovation: The Relationality of Contexts and Mechanisms in a Social Entrepreneurship Network Open Access

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Social enterprises have been emerging to support the growing need to address social challenges in society. However, it is not clear how social entrepreneurs create large-scale change. This research examines the emergence of a new organizing approach, social entrepreneurship networks (SEN), for enacting social innovation. The premise is individual social enterprises may be limited in their ability to scale, while a network of social enterprises can create greater opportunities for impact. The problem is researchers have tended to focus more on the entrepreneur's human attributes. However, social entrepreneurship networks require an understanding of the interaction between social actions and institutional conditions that support social value creation. This research addresses a gap in understanding the nature of this interaction and how these networks emerge to enable social entrepreneurs the means to harness the complexity to achieve their ends of social change. This research found the emergence of a network of entrepreneurs over time, which created novel social patterns. These patterns co-evolved to enable a SEN. This new organizing form was studied through the requisite conditions and social mechanisms necessary to create and scale social value. The conditions included the constraints and influences imposed upon particular agents by course-grained social structures. The social mechanisms identified as fine-grained interactions included the sets of internal assumptions that specified how people would interact and connect with each other. These structures and interactions created a set of dynamical tensions that enabled the emergence and sustainment of the SEN. It was concluded that fine-grained interactions are enabled through networks, which provide the social mechanisms needed to lower the probability of failure and increase the level interactions. In addition, course-grained structures are ratcheted--holding on to what works-- as a result of fine-grained interactions that enable knowledgeable actors to change the structures. Lastly, dynamical tensions create opportunities for hyper-emergence -a form of kick-starting--a social entrepreneurship network. Social entrepreneurship networks simulate collective impact, which holds the promise of sustainable social innovation.

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