Legitimating Nascent Collective Identities: Coordinating Cultural Entrepreneurship
Organization Science, Vol. 22, No. 2, March–April 2011, pp. 449–463
Posted: 20 May 2013 Last revised: 23 May 2013
Date Written: November 17, 2010
The concept of collective identity has gained prominence within organizational theory as researchers have studied how it consequentially shapes organizational behavior. However, much less attention has been paid to the question of how nascent collective identities become legitimated. Although it is conventionally argued that membership expansion leads to collective identity legitimacy, we draw on the notion of cultural entrepreneurship to argue that the relationship is more complex and is culturally mediated by the stories told by group members. We propose a theoretical framework about the conditions under which the collective identity of a nascent entrepreneurial group is more likely to be legitimated. Specifically, we posit that legitimacy is more likely to be achieved when members articulate a clear deﬁning collective identity story that identiﬁes the group’s orienting purpose and core practices. Although membership expansion can undermine legitimation by introducing discrepant actors and practices to a collective identity, this potential downside is mitigated by growth stories, which help to coordinate expansion. Finally, we theorize how processes associated with collective identity membership expansion might affect the evolution of deﬁning collective identity stories.
Keywords: institutional theory, organization and management theory, organizational identity and identification
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