Mobilizing Resources in Constrained Environments: A Study of Technology Social Ventures
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Resource mobilization is of fundamental importance to all startup ventures. In particular, ventures that operate in areas with insufficient access to basic healthcare, education, economic development, or human rights, often face severe resource constraints, because of limited access to seed funding from philanthropic and capital markets. In my dissertation I address two broad questions. First, how do entrepreneurs mobilize resources in resource-constrained environments? Second, how does the form of resource mobilization affect venture scalability? Based on the social entrepreneurship literature and theories of resource mobilization, I undertook an exploratory three-year field study of eight technology ventures within a social venture incubator to examine how social ventures mobilize resources in the absence of external sources of funding or a lack of institutional support. Using bricolage and resource-seeking as two contrasting modes of resource mobilization, I developed a model to explain how technology social ventures mobilize resources, and attract and maintain users in order to sustain growth. This model suggests that the source of funding and level of institutional support (regulatory, technology, political stability, and human development) will predict whether a venture uses bricolage or resource-seeking to mobilize resources. The model also suggests that the use of collective agency will moderate the relationship between resourcemobilization and venture scalability. I test the model on a sample of 202 technology social ventures operating in 48 countries, in one of five sectors: health, economic development, equality, education and environment. First, I found that bricolage can help a venture start up in penurious environments that lack external sources of funding or institutional support. However, bricolage is insufficient for venture growth. I found that a higher level of collective bricolage—the participation of external actors—is required to scale the venture to new markets. This dissertation contributes to the literature in technology entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship by explaining how technology social ventures mobilize resources and create scalable social innovations in penurious environments despite a scarcity of funding and institutional support.