University of Chicago
Social Enterprise as Collective Action: Mobilizing Resources for Mass Market Success.
Main theories of entrepreneurship for social change imply that the influence of social movements’ entrepreneurial efforts would be limited to nascent industries, small market niches or marginal sectors. This paper analyzes the exceptional case of Organic Valley, an agricultural cooperative that defies these expectations as a social movement organization (SMO) that is also a leader in a mass-market industry. As a SMO/Business hybrid, Organic Valley has leveraged its SMO competencies to generate legitimacy premiums and mobilize the resources needed for its mass market success from key stakeholders: raise capital from social investors, gain market premium from customers, benefit from skilled employees who are compensated below market rate, and enjoy commitment and cooperation from its farmer-suppliers. The cooperative has also used mobilization to expand the supply and demand resource spaces available to it. The paper draws implications to theories of social movements in emerging industries, resource partitioning, and social entrepreneurship.
Tal Yifat is a PhD Candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago. His work explores the development of social entrepreneurial and/or sustainable economies at large scale, especially in the food industry. For his dissertation, Tal studies Organic Valley, an agricultural cooperative that is arguably the most successful social enterprise in the United States. He theorizes Organic Valley as a hybrid between business and social movement organization, and examine how it leverages its social movement competencies to establish a sustainable value chain that involves over 2,000 firms. In addition to his dissertation, Tal works on a collaborative research project on the governance of sustainability in the U.S. dairy industry. He received an MA in sociology from the University of Chicago and BAs in Economics and Humanities from Tel Aviv University. Prior to graduate studies, Tal worked as a software developer and a manager in the IT industry.