Bridging noted gaps in the sharing economy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) literatures, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how an organization-sponsored sharing platform – a new class of information technology (IT) and the sharing economy ideal – is given meaning as a CSR program for internal stakeholders.
The research involves phone interviews conducted with site coordinators of the Zimride by Enterprise® ridesharing platform in 25 organizations.
This case study reveals that two component processes of organizational sensemaking – sensegiving and sensebreaking – are underlying micromechanisms used by organizations to enact a sponsored sharing platform as a CSR program. Qualitative analyses demonstrate that every meaning given to Zimride remained open to sensebreaking during its implementation. As such, site coordinators were continuously drawn into sensemaking about Zimride’s cognitive, linguistic and conative dimensions as a CSR program and had to exert ongoing effort to stabilize its socially (re)constructed meaning within their organization. Furthermore, site coordinators’ sensegiving narrative about Zimride was often undermined by their sensebreaking communications and organizational actions, albeit unintentionally.
Sponsoring a sharing platform to facilitate collaborative consumption can deliver triple bottom line benefits for both organizations and their members, but it may not. The key to accruing this potential shared value lies is how site coordinators navigate organizational sensemaking about these IT-enabled CSR programs.
This paper provides valuable insights into these sensemaking processes and develops a prescriptive framework for enacting an organization-sponsored sharing platform as a CSR program.
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