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The Missing Link: Communities of Practice as Bridges Between Institutional Entrepreneurs and Frontline Practitioners in Institutionalizing a Divergent Practice

On Practice and Institution: New Empirical Directions

ISBN: 978-1-80043-417-2, eISBN: 978-1-80043-416-5

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 12 January 2021

Abstract

This paper seeks to understand how new practices that challenge established norms and values become institutionalized by studying the development of corporate philanthropy in France over three decades (1979–2011). Our inductive qualitative study uncovers the processes that enable actors at both field- and organizational-levels to enhance a new practice’s internal and external legitimacy, ultimately leading to its institutionalization. In particular, we identify the central role of a community of practice as a bridge between the field-level, purposive interventions (theorizing, influencing policy) of an institutional entrepreneur and the organizational-level, emergent interventions (mobilizing, embedding) of frontline practitioners experimenting with the new divergent practice, thereby enabling its legitimation and, ultimately, its institutionalization. As such, our findings contribute to refining our understanding of institutionalization processes as inherently distributed and to uncovering communities of practice as the missing link between “heroic” entrepreneurs’ interventions and the hidden work of frontline practitioners implementing the new practice.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

We thank Charlotte Texier, Hélène Dupuy, Hyemi Shin, Julia Hery, Alix Lemaire, and Eléonore Delanoë for their assistance in collecting data and reviewing the literature at various stages of this research project. We also thank the ADMICAL community for allowing us to access their archives and giving us feedback on preliminary findings. We are grateful to Michael Lounsbury, Royston Greenwood, Chris Marquis, Bernard Leca, Jan Lepoutre, Sofiane Baba, Warren Nilsson, Wendy Smith, and Tammar Zilber for their valuable comments on some of the ideas expressed here. We also thank the participants at European Group for Organization Studies colloquiums and Academy of Management annual meetings that gave us feedback on previous versions of this article. Finally, we thank Deborah Anderson and Michael Smets for their editorial suggestions.

Citation

Gautier, A., Pache, A.-C., Chowdhury, I. and Ligonie, M. (2021), "The Missing Link: Communities of Practice as Bridges Between Institutional Entrepreneurs and Frontline Practitioners in Institutionalizing a Divergent Practice", Lounsbury, M., Anderson, D.A. and Spee, P. (Ed.) On Practice and Institution: New Empirical Directions (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 71), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 199-230. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20200000071008

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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