External stakeholders and the social enterprise (SE) identity formation in a developing country context: a social exchange perspective.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Purpose: Drawing on theories of organisational identity, social exchange and stakeholder engagement, this study aims to investigate the processes and practices involved in the formation and shaping of identities of social enterprises (SEs) that operate in the Malawian hospitality and tourism industry. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing on an interpretive research paradigm, data collected from 22 semi-structured interviews with four founders of case SEs and stakeholders, and SEs’ reports and other publicly available documents were generated and analysed following a grounded theory approach. Findings: The authors show that the trajectory SEs followed and the exchanges that occurred with the external stakeholders allowed three out of four case SEs to swiftly re-evaluate their pre-existing identities and work towards the formation of their new identities. Practical implications: This study provides an opportunity for policymakers and other actors in developing countries to frame and place SEs in line with the wider societal realities in such contexts. This may in turn call for policymakers to increase actors’ engagement with SEs and provide the necessary support that can allow SEs to be an effective force for the public good. Originality/value: This paper highlights the role of exchanges with external stakeholders in identity formation and shaping within SEs in the hospitality and tourism sector in the context of institutional voids. By adopting the social exchange theory, this paper introduces a dynamic lens to identity formation and shaping and helps to explain how, across different tourism ventures, stakeholder engagement and different modes of exchange unfold in the inter-organisational and community domains. It further shows how the ventures’ value orientations on the one hand, and stakeholder engagement practices and the ensuing exchanges, on the other hand, are closely interwoven.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-53
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Developing countries
  • Organisational identities
  • Social enterprise
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Social exchange
  • Stakeholder engagement


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