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Exploring the drivers of tensions in social innovation management in the context of social entrepreneurial teams

Frédéric Dufays (Faculty of Economics and Business, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 26 March 2018

Issue publication date: 21 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to identify tensions that are emerging in the invention and implementation of social innovation by social entrepreneurial teams and highlights elements that influence the type of tension encountered.


Four cases are selected theoretically, studied individually, and compared to one another to identify tensions and patterns of tensions.


The findings reveal the predominant tensions related to goals and identity during social innovation invention and those related to time and knowledge during social innovation implementation. The size of the entrepreneurial team, the nature of the social innovation, and the interest orientation – that is, the overlap between entrepreneurial team members and beneficiaries – are found to play a role in the type of tensions encountered and their content.

Research limitations/implications

The chosen research approach limits the generalizability of the research results. Replication in other settings and with other types of social innovation is therefore encouraged.


In contrast to most existing studies, this research focuses on nascent social innovation projects borne by teams. It proposes that social-business tensions are not necessarily predominant in social innovation management. It suggests the importance of interest orientation as an underestimated factor in the study of social entrepreneurship.



The author benefited of a FRESH research grant of the FRS-FNRS during part of this research. This research has been carried out in the framework of an Interuniversity Attraction Pole funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office under the title “If not for profit, for what and how?”


Dufays, F. (2019), "Exploring the drivers of tensions in social innovation management in the context of social entrepreneurial teams", Management Decision, Vol. 57 No. 6, pp. 1344-1361.



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