Understanding and combating mission drift in social enterprises

Cornforth, Christopher (2014). Understanding and combating mission drift in social enterprises. Social Enterprise Journal, 10(1) pp. 3–20.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-09-2013-0036


Purpose – The aim of this paper is to develop a better understanding of the pressures that can cause mission drift among social enterprises and some of the steps that social enterprises can take combat these pressures.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is conceptual in nature. It draws on resource dependency theory, institutional theory and various extant empirical studies to develop an understanding of the causes of mission drift. This analysis is then used to examine the practical steps that social enterprises can take to combat mission drift.

Findings – The paper highlights how high dependence on a resource provider and the demands of ‘competing’ institutional environments can lead to mission drift. Based on this analysis the paper sets out various governance mechanisms and management strategies that can be used to combat mission drift.

Practical implications – The paper sets out practical steps that can be taken to try to prevent mission drift, including governance mechanisms such as constitutional and legal safeguards, separating commercial and social activities, external accreditation, and management strategies to maintain commitment to organisational values and mission, and manage key resources dependencies.

Originality/value – The paper will be of value to other researchers attempting to understand the dynamics social enterprises and in particular processes that can lead mission drift, and to managers of social enterprises keen to combat these processes.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 39882
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1750-8614
  • Extra Information
  • Winner of the Social Enterprise Journal Outstanding paper 2015. Freely available to download for 12 months from June 2015 from the above link.
  • Keywords
  • social enterprise; mission drift; failure; institutional theory; resource dependency; governance
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
  • Depositing User
  • Chris Cornforth