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Towards a Theory of Ecosystem Catalyst

Savaget, P.; Pitsis, T.S.


P. Savaget


Organizational growth, size, and longevity are core assumptions within the notion of ‘scale’ within the entrepreneurship literature. The concept of scale, however, has limited use when taken-for-granted in the social impact context because it neglects that a social venture may synchronize growth in value creation, exchange, and capture for their intended beneficiaries through changes that occur within an ecosystem, rather than through growth that is confined to the boundaries of the organization. In this study, we inductively explore the case of ColaLife - an organization created to scale up access to diarrhea treatment in Zambia while also rendering itself gradually more redundant until ceasing its operations. We ask an undertheorized question in entrepreneurship literature: How do social entrepreneurs scale social impact while simultaneously scaling away their own organizations? By studying ColaLife in-depth and over time, we theorize the role of Ecosystem Catalysts as the combinatorial function of instilling in an ecosystem a shared purpose, leveraging existing capabilities and resources, and enhancing the autonomy of local players. We argue for a more nuanced and value-based conceptualization of ‘scale’: one that is more adequate to interpreting scaling efforts at the intersection between social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystems.


Savaget, P., & Pitsis, T. (2022). Towards a Theory of Ecosystem Catalyst. .

Conference Name 82nd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
Conference Location Seattle, WA
Start Date Aug 5, 2022
End Date Aug 9, 2022
Acceptance Date Mar 24, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 6, 2022
Publication Date 2022-07
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2022
Series Number 1
Series ISSN 0065-0668,2151-6561
Public URL