Confrontation or Collaboration: The Role of Social Movements in Firm-Level Innovation

Katarzyna Odziemkowska, Rice University, and Yiying Zhu, Rice University

Abstract: The past decade has witnessed an explosion in research at the intersection of markets and social movements, with an increasing acknowledgment of social movements as key drivers of change in organizations and markets. Social movements create new products and markets, change practices in existing organizations, and can have profound impacts on the commercialization of innovation. Building on and extending this stream of research, in this project, I propose to bring social movements into the study of innovation outcomes at the firm level. Similar to the pivotal role governments and regulation can play in innovation, I argue that social movements are a form of demand-pull determinant of innovation. I distinguish between two types of social movement actors — confrontational and collaborative activists — and the differential innovation outcomes they produce at the firm level. While extant innovation research focuses on alliances between two or more for-profit firms, an increasing number of firms are forming alliances with not-for-profit non-governmental organizations. To my knowledge, this will be the first paper to answer the call made by Kale & Singh (2009) to explore this new class of alliances between firms and NGOs.