PhD defence: The Development of Organizational Sustainability in Social Enterprises

PhD defence

Roberto Hernandez Chea


During the last years, there has been a growing interest among policy makers, practitioners and researchers in the potential of social enterprises to achieve the dual goals of, simultaneously, creating social impact and doing business. Social enterprises are hybrid organizations that, on one hand, support disadvantaged groups of people to tackle their social problems such as, for example, poverty or lack of employment opportunities and, on the other hand, generate revenue from commercial activities to sustain their operations. Social enterprises may involve public and private members as founders with different demands and interests that translate into different management challenges. Such challenges may sometimes threaten the development of organizational sustainability and therefore the ability of social enterprises to continue operating in the long-term. This thesis aims to investigate this issue, leveraging on a behavior perspective to study the development of organizational sustainability in social enterprises that involve public and private members as collaborating founders. In particular, the four scientific articles that consolidate the thesis provide insights into the management dimensions of inter-organizational relationships, governing boards, workforce composition, and organizational activities affected by the hybridity of social enterprises. Organizational sustainability is therefore conceptualized as a function of the hybrid nature of social enterprises and the public and private members’ behaviors in the different management dimensions. All the four scientific articles adopt a case study methodology, which allows in-depth examination of the relationship between internal factors and contextual conditions of complex – an under-studied phenomenon in the case of organizational sustainability. Findings of the thesis indicate that different internal factors and conditions, such as divergent logics and type of relationships among members, lead to eight categories of desired and undesired behaviors found in the different management dimensions. Among these categories, the findings highlight, for example, how reciprocal or profit-seeking and committed or uncommitted behaviors affect the hybrid nature of social enterprises. The findings show that these behaviors in different ways can inhibit or enable hybrid viability of social enterprises. The development of organizational sustainability depends on hybrid viability, which is subject to different social mechanisms that emerge from the eight categories of behaviors. These results underscore that policy makers, practitioners as well as researchers in the field of social enterprises need to pay attention to the key behaviors, internal factors and conditions needed in the management dimensions to develop sustainable social enterprises. 


Carsten Nico Portefée Hjortsø, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Giuseppina Carrà, Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Catania, Italy

Elena Tavella, Assistant Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Assesment Committee

Marcel Bogers, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Rosario Francesco Antonio Faraci, Professor, Department of Economics and Business, University of Catania, Italy

Steffen Korsgaard, Associate Professor, Department of Management, School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark

If you are interested in a full copy of the thesis, you can contact the PhD student or one of the supervisors.