How and why do social entrepreneurs experience goal conflict differently?

Rebecca Pieniazek*, Kerrie L. Unsworth, Hannah Dean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well-known that the need for both social and financial missions creates tension within social enterprises. Less well-known are the specifics around how and why social entrepreneurs themselves construct and experience their situation. Given people vary in their psychological representations of their goals from concrete (i.e., tasks) to more abstract (i.e., values), we anticipated that goal conflict with engaging in financial activities could vary along these lines, leading to potentially different solutions for support. Through collecting interviews and focus group data using goal hierarchies from 37 social entrepreneurs, we find six constructed realities with different salient goals at different levels of cognitive abstraction which either dictate, conflict with, or are dissociated from financial activities. These can explain why social entrepreneurs perceive their financial activities differently – financial activities as out of sight out of mind, aversive, a ball to juggle, a necessary evil, part and parcel, and as king - which are associated with four experiences of goal conflict (i.e., goal conflict as continual questioning, inevitable, manageable, and irrelevant).
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00452
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Business Venturing Insights
Early online date22 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2024


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