Spreading the love: How motivation impacts the internationalisation of social enterprises

How motivation impacts the internationalisation of social enterprises

Project dates: 20/02/2019 - 30/11/2020

Social enterprise firms are receiving increasing levels of recognition, both publicly and academically, due to their ability to produce both social and financial value and act as vehicles for societal change. However, despite being recognised within Australia as an innovative solution to address complex societal needs, the way in which these organisations operate, particularly when internationalising, is relatively unknown.  Extant literature within the social enterprise domain predominantly focuses on the drivers of internationalisation and is yet to explain how motivation differs between these organisations and the role this plays in firm internationalisation, despite current research establishing the strong impact of the founder on social enterprise firm processes.

Thus, this honours research aimed to examine the role of firm and founder motivation on the internationalisation process of social enterprises. This study is underpinned by the overarching question: how and why do social enterprise internationalise?

To address these research questions, a multiple case study methodology was employed combining both semi-structured interview data with secondary data sources from four Australian-founded social enterprises engaged in internationalisation.

The findings from the data uncovered how different variations of motivation, such as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, impact the level of internationalisation for social enterprise firms. Furthermore, internal firm and founder abilities were found to be a key factor for social enterprise firms during internationalisation, such as the ability to leverage their social mission to attract international partnerships. Lastly, it was found that motivation played a foundational role within social enterprise internationalisation, leading to the identification of international opportunities and the way in which social enterprises leveraged internal firm resources.

Key contributions:

  • Managerial
    1. Social enterprise founders need to work towards achieving a balance between extrinsic motivation and the internal firm requirements
    2. Internal founder and firm-level resources need to be developed for social enterprises’ internationalisation
    3. Social enterprise founders can leverage the firm’s social mission to align with key partners for internationalisation
  • Theoretical
    1. Motivation is linked to the social enterprise internationalisation process
    2. Internal firm and founder resources are important for social enterprise internationalisation
    3. The firm’s social mission can be used as a strategic lever for network creation and internationalisation

Overall, the findings from this research have shed light on the unique motivations and internationalisation processes of social enterprises, hopefully contributing to future research that will deliver further understanding of these organisations, supporting them to expand their social impact globally.


Project Summary Report

Chief Investigators