7 November 2023, 15:30 - 17:00 CET / 9:30 - 11:00 EST
Cui Bono? Organizational Legitimacy and Social Impact in Corporate-Community Relations in Kenya
Organizations often claim that their actions benefit others, as can be seen in social impact initiatives, eliciting positive legitimacy evaluations from a broad range of stakeholders – even though such initiatives may produce limited or even harmful effects on target beneficiaries. While scholars have begun to examine relational dynamics between organizations and evaluators who render judgments about the legitimacy of organizational actions, target beneficiaries have been typically considered as the passive recipients of positive or negative impacts of organizational actions. Drawing upon qualitative data from corporate-community relations in Kenya, this study reveals a triadic relationship (organization – evaluators – beneficiaries) that establishes organizational legitimacy in the eyes of evaluators while generating substantive benefits for target beneficiaries. Far from being passive, target beneficiaries actively participate in the organizational legitimation process by corroborating the organization’s social impact claims in communications with the evaluators. This corroboration provides a leverage for the target beneficiaries to negotiate organizational support towards contextualized practices that generate substantive benefits to themselves. The study advances the relational view of legitimacy beyond the organization-evaluator dyad and reveals how the processes and outcomes of organizational legitimation and social impact creation can be reshaped through the participation of target beneficiaries.