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University of Colorado Boulder

An exploration of identity configurations: How foundations become impact investors


This study examines how organizational identity as a lens for understanding the non-economic influences on new practice adoption. Empirically, I study the adoption of impact investing, the intention of creating positive impact beyond financial return, among US private foundations.  To do so, I theorize how imprinting behavior, “who we are”, and the strategic action, “what we do”, of organizational identity uniquely influences the likelihood of adopting new practices.  Despite a foundations’ core desire to allocate wealth towards the purpose of social good, I also find that foundations a strong charitable identity hinders the likelihood of adopting a new practice.  This suggests there are certain identity-markers that characterize the conditions for new practice adoption. My findings disentangle imprinting conditions for new practice adoption, which help to explain the characteristics of early adopters of a new category. In this case, identity is the mechanism that connects an organizations’ imprinting behavior and its corresponding strategy, which challenges certain economic assumptions about how and why a new practice will be adopted. 


Jessica Jones is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, studying entrepreneurship and management.  Her research interests include topics related to identity, legitimacy, and the resource acquisition process.  She is focused on understanding how entrepreneurs in marginalized contexts access important sources of capital (e.g., impact investing, poverty-related outcomes). Her research is driven by her interest in poverty alleviation fieldwork in Latin America.  While working for a social enterprise and teaching entrepreneurship to university students, she came to understand both the empowerment and challenges faced by individuals pursuing new venture opportunities without appropriate access to resources and support.   Her research focuses on understanding how the unique relationship between early-stage investors and entrepreneurs shape the trajectory of impact-focused businesses.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

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