This paper uses institutional theory to highlight different patterns of cross-sector collaboration from the perspective of social enterprises. Specifically, it explores how and why social enterprises interact with mainstream businesses and to what extent their collaboration patterns reflect a vision of how their social mission should be implemented and institutionalized. The empirical analysis is derived from a qualitative study of ‘fair trade’ – a hybrid model created by social enterprises and using market mechanisms to support small-scale producers in developing countries and to advocate for changes in international trading practices. The findings highlight three strategies used by fair trade social enterprises to manage their interactions with mainstream businesses: sector solidarity, selective engagement, and active appropriation. This paper suggests that each strategy is motivated by a different vision of how best to articulate the social mission of fair trade via specific types of collaborations. It also notes how each vision has a distinct pattern of institutionalization at the field level. This paper adds to the emergent literatures on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, fair trade, cross-sector collaboration and hybrid organizing.
Benjamin Huybrechts, Alex Nicholls and Katharina Edinger. 2017. Sacred alliance or pact with the devil? How and why social enterprises collaborate with mainstream businesses in the fair trade sector, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 29(7/8): 586-608: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08985626.2017.1328905