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Institutional work through empathic engagement

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A growing body of literature examines how actors engage with institutions and how they prompt institutional change and evolution. This article takes stock of this knowledge and contributes an affective dimension to the study of how institutional entrepreneurs achieve momentum and field-level impact. The article views institutional work as relational agency and conceptualises empathic engagement as a way for institutional entrepreneurs to relate affectively to other actors and induce cooperation. We demonstrate how empathic engagement by institutional entrepreneurs can nurture communities of practice that co-create change in institutional fields. Our argument hinges on the actors’ affective investment and advances the less developed non-cognitive dimension of institutional work. By integrating empathic engagement into institutional entrepreneurship, we demonstrate how institutional entrepreneurs nurture their ability to engage and cooperate with others to diffuse particular values through institutional work. This integration focuses on the way of knowing generated through empathic engagement: the ability to bring about a consensus by creating frames of reference and identities that others are enchanted by and subscribe to, as opposed to using coercive mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Management Journal
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • Empathic engagement, Affective dimension, Institutional entrepreneur, Institutional work, Reflective purposefulness, Sustainability, CSR

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