Scaling Social Impact

In recent decades, there has been a remarkable surge in social entrepreneurial activities and the proliferation of social enterprises (Saebi et al., 2019). Both academic literature and practical endeavors have widely embraced the concept of social entrepreneurship, which involves addressing societal issues through market-driven approaches (Dacin et al., 2011). Nevertheless, despite the establishment of numerous social enterprises, achieving substantial growth in their social impact has remained a formidable challenge. In fact, Shepherd and Patzelt (2022) have described scaling as "one of the most important yet least understood topics in social entrepreneurship" (p. 9). To gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved in scaling social impact, we offer multiple theses within this domain.

The idea is to analyze one specific social startup as an inductive single case study. From this perspective, it would be interesting to find out how the startup pursues its social mission and whether and how it scales its social innovation. Nevertheless, also other emerging research questions could be of interest.

Starting Literature: 

Dacin, M. T., Dacin, P. A., & Tracey, P. (2011). Social entrepreneurship: A critique and future directions. Organization science, 22(5), 1203-1213.

Dees, J. G., Anderson, B. B., & Wie-skillern, J. (2004). Scaling social impact: Strategies for spreading social innovations. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2, 24–32. 

Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of management review, 14(4), 532-550.

Saebi, T., Foss, N. J., & Linder, S. (2019). Social Entrepreneurship Research: Past Achievements and Future Promises. Journal of Management, 45(1), 70–95. 

Shepherd, D. A., & Patzelt, H. (2022). A call for research on the scaling of organizations and the scaling of social impact. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 46(2), 255-268. 

Robert Hoyer



Meaningful  work

Meaningfulness has been defined as a genuinely positive subjective experience of existential significance at work (Pratt & Ashforth, 2003) which is associated with positive psychological and organizational outcomes (Bailey et al., 2018). I supervise qualitative and conceptual bachelor theses in the following research areas:

a)  Today, there's a growing desire among individuals to seek jobs that hold personal meaning while contributing positively to society. Achieving coherence between the self (“being”) and one’s work (“doing”) is a central motive for finding meaning and constructing a professional identity (Pratt et al., 2006). Research has shown that developing a legitimate professional identity is important to be perceived as competent by members of one’s profession (Bloom et al., 2020). However, for many (young) professionals, being successful and achieving legitimacy in one’s profession while creating what they consider a meaningful impact is a balancing act that involves multiple tensions.

b)  Most research on meaningful work has originated from the domain of positive psychology and primarily centered on the workplace as its focal point. Nonetheless, recent contributions from management and organization studies have adopted a more critical stance toward meaningfulness. Several recent studies have shed light on the potential dark sides of deeply meaningful work. Specifically, empirical studies have shown that experiencing excessive meaningfulness (Bunderson & Thompson, 2009, Florian et al., 2019, Oelberger, 2019) can lead to adverse consequences for the individual, „such as overwork, the acceptance of poor working conditions, cynicism, or negative attitudes towards others” (Bailey et al., 2019, p. 489). Some studies have also discovered the broader societal context as an important source of or detriment to constructing one’s work as meaningful (Florian et al., 2019; Kuhn et al., 2008; Pratt & Hedden, 2023). However, so far, we do not know enough about the role the societal context (e.g., in a certain profession) plays in individuals’ experience of meaningfulness.


Bailey, C., Lips‐Wiersma, M., Madden, A., Yeoman, R., Thompson, M., & Chalofsky, N. (2019). The five paradoxes of meaningful work: Introduction to the special issue ‘Meaningful work: Prospects for the 21st century.’ Journal of Management Studies, 56(3), 481–499.

Bloom, M., Colbert, A. E., & Nielsen, J. D. (2020). Stories of calling: How called professionals construct narrative identities. Administrative Science Quarterly, 000183922094950.

Bunderson, J. S., & Thompson, J. A. (2009). The call of the wild: Zookeepers, callings, and the double-edged sword of deeply meaningful work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54(1), 32–57.

Florian, M., Costas, J., & Kärreman, D. (2019). Struggling with meaningfulness when context shifts: Volunteer work in a German refugee shelter. Journal of Management Studies, 56(3), 589–616.

Kuhn, T., Golden, A. G., Jorgenson, J., Buzzanell, P. M., Berkelaar, B. L., Kisselburgh, L. G., Kleinman, S., & Cruz, D. (2008). Cultural discourses and discursive resources for meaning/ful work: Constructing and disrupting identities in contemporary capitalism. Management Communication Quarterly, 22(1), 162–171.

Oelberger, C. R. (2019). The dark side of deeply meaningful work: Work‐relationship turmoil and the moderating role of occupational value homophily. Journal of Management Studies, 56(3), 558–588.

Pratt, M. G., & Ashforth, B. E. (2003). Fostering meaningfulness in working and at work. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline. Berrett-Koehler.

Pratt, M. G., & Hedden, L. N. (2023). Accounts and accountability: On organizational purpose, organizational identity, and meaningful work. Strategy Science, stsc.2023.0189.

Pratt, M. G., Rockmann, K. W., & Kaufmann, J. B. (2006). Constructing professional identity: The role of work and identity learning cycles in the customization of identity among medical residents. Academy of Management Journal, 49(2), 235–262

Johanne Düsterbeck


Innovation and futures

There has been a resurgent interest from researchers in how organizations grapple with the big unknown: the future (Wenzel et al., 2020). Notably, scholars from sociology (e.g., Jens Beckert and Ann Mische) and science and technology studies in particular (e.g., Sheila Jasanoff and Harro van Lente) have developed valuable perspectives on how people in and around organizations imagine and make sense of possible futures to come. Recent research in management and organization studies has revisited the theme of “futures” providing intriguing new angles, including:

a)  The concept of future-making (Comi & Whyte, 2018; Wenzel, 2022) perpetuates a practice-based perspective on how organizations are “making sense of possible and probable futures and evaluating, negotiating and giving form to preferred ones” (Whyte et al., 2022, p. 2). This perspective emphasizes the role of artifacts and space in how organizations grapple with the future.

b)  Recent scholarship emphasizes the significance of considering cognitive distance when studying how futures are imagined and shaped in organizations (Augustine et al., 2019; Liberman & Trope, 1998; Rindova & Martins, 2022). These studies claim that near and distant futures are inherently distinct from one another as individuals evaluate them based on different criteria.

c)  Another emerging stream of research investigates the role of innovation in how organizations imagine and try to actively shape a desired future (e.g., Beckert, 2021; Garud et al., 2014; Kumaraswamy et al., 2018; Rindova & Martins, 2022). Promising studies in this realm focus on the strategic narratives that accompany innovation (Garud et al., 2014; Rindova & Martins, 2022) and processual perspectives on innovation (Garud et al., 2013). Studying innovation through lenses of 1) future-making or 2) cognitive distance might yield valuable insights.


I supervise qualitative and conceptual bachelor theses that seek to investigate research questions centered around the above themes.



Augustine, G., Soderstrom, S., Milner, D., & Weber, K. (2019). Constructing a distant future: Imaginaries in geoengineering. Academy of Management Journal, 62(6), 1930–1960.

Beckert, J. (2021). The firm as an engine of imagination: Organizational prospection and the making of economic futures. Organization Theory, 2(2), 263178772110057.

Comi, A., & Whyte, J. (2018). Future making and visual artefacts: An ethnographic study of a design project. Organization Studies, 39(8), 1055–1083.

Garud, R., Schildt, H. A., & Lant, T. K. (2014). Entrepreneurial storytelling, future expectations, and the paradox of legitimacy. Organization Science, 25(5), 1479–1492.

Garud, R., Tuertscher, P., & Van de Ven, A. H. (2013). Perspectives on innovation processes. Academy of Management Annals, 7(1), 775–819.

Kumaraswamy, A., Garud, R., & Ansari, S. (2018). Perspectives on disruptive innovations. Journal of Management Studies, 55(7), 1025–1042.

Liberman, N., & Trope, Y. (1998). The role of feasibility and desirability considerations in near and distant future decisions: A test of temporal construal theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 5–18.

Rindova, V. P., & Martins, L. L. (2022). Futurescapes: Imagination and temporal reorganization in the design of strategic narratives. Strategic Organization, 20(1), 200–224.

Wenzel, M. (2022). Taking the future more seriously: From corporate foresight to “future-making.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 36(2), 845–850.

Whyte, J., Comi, A., & Mosca, L. (2022). Making futures that matter: Future making, online working and organizing remotely. Organization Theory, 3(1), 263178772110691.

Johanne Düsterbeck