fbpx Managing Attentional Challenges in Social Enterprises: The Key Role Board Structure and Processes | Harvard Kennedy School

HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation, HKS; Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, HBS

Abstract

We examine how boards of directors enable social enterprises to sustain their attention on social and commercial goals. Drawing on a comparative case study of eight work integration social enterprises (WISEs), we identify key board-level mechanisms that, when combined, help boards hold their organization’s attention on dual goals. Specifically, we find that WISEs with board members who collectively represent the social and commercial logics are more likely to maintain their attention on dual goals. However, they are also more likely to experience highly distracting governance crises. We further find that the WISEs that are able to avoid these crises rely on a combination of board-level structural and processual arrangements. They employ a stable board structure in which one group of board members representing one logic holds the majority of decision rights, yet integrates the perspective of the minority group representing the other logic. Bridging work processes, which refers to activities undertaken by a board member to ensure that members representing different logics understand each other, enables this systematic engagement with the minority. With this attention-holding model, we contribute to scholarship on hybrid organizations, boards, and organizational attention by uncovering the neglected yet essential attention-holding function of boards in hybrid organizations.

Citation

Battilana, Julie. "Managing Attentional Challenges in Social Enterprises: The Key Role Board Structure and Processes." Academy of Management Proceedings 2019.1 (July 2019): 14055.