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

See all articles by Arthur Gautier

Arthur Gautier

ESSEC Business School

Anne-Claire Pache

ESSEC Business School

Imran Chowdhury

Wheaton College (MA)

Marion Ligonie

Catholic University of Lille - IESEG School of Management

Date Written: June 1, 2020

Abstract

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

Gautier, Arthur and Pache, Anne-Claire and Chowdhury, Imran and Ligonie, Marion, The Missing Link: Communities of Practice as Bridges between Institutional Entrepreneurs and Frontline Practitioners in Institutionalizing a Divergent Practice (June 1, 2020). Forthcoming in Special Issue on 'Practice-Driven Institutionalism' in Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3621645 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3621645

Arthur Gautier (Contact Author)

ESSEC Business School ( email )

3 Avenue Bernard Hirsch
CS 50105 CERGY
CERGY, CERGY PONTOISE CEDEX 95021
France

Anne-Claire Pache

ESSEC Business School ( email )

3 Avenue Bernard Hirsch
CS 50105 CERGY
CERGY, CERGY PONTOISE CEDEX 95021
France

Imran Chowdhury

Wheaton College (MA) ( email )

26 E Main Street
Norton, MA 02766
United States

Marion Ligonie

Catholic University of Lille - IESEG School of Management ( email )

Socle de la Grande Arche
1 Parvis de la Defense
Puteaux, Paris 92800
France

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