In Research


Year: 2018
Published in: Journal of Business Venturing, 33: 179-206.
Cited as: Conger, M., McMullen, J. S., Jr. Bergman, B. J., & York, J. G. 2018. Category membership, identity control, and the reevaluation of prosocial opportunities. Journal of Business Venturing, 33: 179-206.


We extend current knowledge on prosocial organizing by explaining how membership in organizational categories lead entrepreneurs to reevaluate their firms’ activities and opportunities. Through a qualitative study of 46 firms that pursued B Corp certification, we developed an identity control model of prosocial opportunity. Our findings suggest that joining a prosocial category catalyzes identity-driven reflexivity, which can alter the firm’s engagement in prosocial activity. This identity-driven process occurs in tandem with evaluations of opportunity viability and attractiveness, the potential for intra-organizational conflict, and the relative power and position that category legitimacy affords the firm. Our findings contribute to literature streams on prosocial organizing, identity, and categories.


Visit the journal website to see access options for this document.

Recommendations from this resource

Future Research

1) Since the focus of this study was on prosocial organizing, entrepreneurs undergoing B Corp certification were sampled. This sample was particularly appropriate for examining the role of identity in opportunity evaluation, given the setting’s tendency to make salient various individual values, but it also begs the question of whether findings would generalize to other certification procedures. Whereas some certifications may be purely functional and instrumental, others such as LEED certification appear to offer both value-related and values-related dimensions as well. It seems reasonable to assume that the latter would trigger the same identity-related opportunity evaluation process as observed with regards to B Corp certification, but would the former? In other words, does the opportunity/self nexus have the same explanatory power for other categories or subcategories as it does for the prosocial context? Do all certifications undergo assessment regarding personal authenticity concerns when being evaluated as opportunities, or does their evaluation tend to stop at a firm-related financial assessment?
2) Future research should investigate whether prosocial opportunities tend to reflect the self-concepts of elites. If so, these opportunities may not offer the best solutions for the people they aim to help. Consequently, a closer examination of the relationship between identity and prosocial organizing could shed light on the dark side of social entrepreneurship by explaining the potential disenfranchisement of beneficiaries.