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Exploring the social innovation process in a large market based social enterprise: A dynamic capabilities approach

Martine Vézina (Département Management, HEC Montréal, Montreal, Canada)
Majdi Ben Selma (Canada-Research Group on Strategic Innovation and Governance, École des sciences de la gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Canada)
Marie Claire Malo (Département Management, HEC Montréal, Montreal, Canada)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 1 July 2018

Issue publication date: 21 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the organising of social innovation in a large market-based social enterprises from the perspective of dynamic capabilities and social transformation.


This paper analyses the process by which Desjardins Group launched the Desjardins Environment Fund as the first investment fund in North America to integrate environmental screening. It uses longitudinal single case analysis and a theoretical framework based on Teece’s three dynamic capabilities.


Results show that dynamic capabilities can be conceived as stages in the process of social innovation. Sensing refers to the capability to identify a societal demand for social transformation. Seizing capability is about shaping societal demand into a commercial offer. Reconfiguring concerns organisational innovation to integrate actual and new knowledge through innovative routines. Microprocesses of both path dependency and path building are in action at each of the three stages.

Practical implications

This paper shows that managing dynamic capabilities is central to social innovation in the context of a large social business and provides genuine managerial input via an analysis of the microprocesses at work in the social innovation process.


This paper contributes to the operationalization of Teece’s dynamic capabilities model. In mobilising a framework in the field of management of innovation, it contributes to the understanding of the process of social innovation and develops the organisational mechanism for multiscalarity of social innovation as a condition for social transformation.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This work was funded by Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins International Institute for Cooperatives of HEC Montreal.


Vézina, M., Ben Selma, M. and Malo, M.C. (2019), "Exploring the social innovation process in a large market based social enterprise: A dynamic capabilities approach", Management Decision, Vol. 57 No. 6, pp. 1399-1414.



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