The Missing Link: Communities of Practice as Bridges between Institutional Entrepreneurs and Frontline Practitioners in Institutionalizing a Divergent Practice
Forthcoming in Special Issue on 'Practice-Driven Institutionalism' in Research in the Sociology of Organizations
54 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020 Last revised: 12 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 1, 2020
This paper seeks to understand how new practices that challenge established norms and values become institutionalized by studying the development of corporate philanthropy in France over three decades (1979-2011). Our inductive qualitative study uncovers the processes that enable actors at both field- and organizational-levels to enhance a new practice’s internal and external legitimacy, ultimately leading to its institutionalization. In particular, we identify the central role of a community of practice as a bridge between the field-level, purposive interventions (theorizing, influencing policy) of an institutional entrepreneur and the organizational-level, emergent interventions (mobilizing, embedding) of frontline practitioners experimenting with the new divergent practice, thereby enabling its legitimation and, ultimately, its institutionalization. As such, our findings contribute to refining our understanding of institutionalization processes as inherently distributed and to uncovering communities of practice as the missing link between “heroic” entrepreneurs’ interventions and the hidden work of frontline practitioners implementing the new practice.
Keywords: community of practice, corporate philanthropy, frontline practitioners, institutional change, institutional entrepreneurship
JEL Classification: M1, N34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation