Call for papers: Entrepreneurship as a structural transformation of contexts: Toward an understanding of being entrepreneurial


Entrepreneurship as a structural transformation of contexts: Toward an understanding of being entrepreneurial


Guest editors:

Michela Loi – University of Cagliari

Manuel Castriotta – University of Cagliari

Maria Chiara Di Guardo – University of Cagliari

Alain Fayolle – University of Cagliari


Background and motives of the call

Entrepreneurship has emerged as a legitimate field of inquiry (Fayolle et al., 2016) that investigates “[…] how, by whom, and with what effects opportunities to create future goods and services are discovered, evaluated, and exploited(Shane and Venkataraman, 2000: 218). Temporally and culturally embedded, entrepreneurship is a multifaceted phenomenon whose manifestation roots in a mutual interaction between the individual and the social sphere (Shepherd et al., 2019). Trying to cast light on this intricate interplay among different lenses of analysis and context specificities, scholars have so far eluded their attempt to reach a universal and accepted conceptualisation of entrepreneurship, struggling in resolving theoretical tensions.

This call for contributions aims at addressing these tensions by asking scholars to reflect on the true essence of entrepreneurship by focusing the attention on a conceptualisation recently emerged in the literature that defines entrepreneurship as a structural transformation of contexts (McMullen et al., 2020). We claim that an organisational lens might be highly useful to achieve our aim and to integrate current perspectives.

As recently claimed by McMullen et al. (2020), there is a need to contextualise and abstract from context if we are to understand what holds the different manifestations of entrepreneurship together. On the one hand, diversity is a fundamental feature of the entrepreneurial phenomenon (Welter et al., 2017). It takes place in different contexts, assumes disparate forms, develops through various phases and arises from very peculiar motivations, leading entrepreneurs to achieve a wide range of possible outcomes. In front of these diversities, observers might get convinced they are looking at very unrelated phenomena. A contextual lens is then advocated as suitable to approach and explain the inherent complexity of entrepreneurship (Welter, 2011; Welter and Baker, 2020).

On the other hand, every manifestation of entrepreneurship always requires agency (making choices) and action to occur (McMullen and Shepherd, 2006), regardless of the diversity above mentioned. Some essential elements underpinning these manifestations constitute the common ground that uniforms the multifaced nature of entrepreneurship. In trying to identify the surrounding common elements of entrepreneurship, McMullen et al. (2020) focus on the opportunities, ability and motivation of an agent (a person or an organisation) as issues that provide the agent with the capability to act. Furthermore, they identify process skills and immunisation against institutionalisation effects (conformity and compliance) as those elements that enable the agent to structural transform contexts.

Therefore, in its very essence, entrepreneurship can be represented as a process of structural transformation of contexts enabled by those “[…] agents who exercise the power of transformative capacity—which we define as the capability to intervene in worldly events to produce definite outcomes by getting circumstances and others to comply with one’s wants”(McMullen et al., 2020: 4). This tentative definition of entrepreneurship highlights the urgent need to extend our reflections on the true essence of this phenomenon by embracing the diversity and regularities of entrepreneurship at the same time.

Motivated by this challenge, in this call for contributions, we would stimulate debate around the concept of entrepreneurship as a structural transformation by reflecting on what enables this transformation, the forms this transformation may assume, the magnitude of the transformation, and the process by which individuals or organisations engage themselves to produce a structural transformation of contexts to act in an entrepreneurial manner.

In line with previous attempts toward a unified theory of entrepreneurship (McMullen et al., 2020; Shepherd et al., 2019), this reflection helps scholars understand what lies beneath the myriad of entrepreneurial phenomena and open the debate on the impacts of these transformations at the individual, organisational and societal level. Contributions may be focused on the following themes that are not exhaustive or restrictive:

  • Motives of structural transformations
    • What push individuals and organisations toward structural transformations?
    • How do social contexts enable structural transformations?
    • Is there a suitable time for enacting structural transformations?
  • Forms of structural transformations
    • How many forms of structural transformations can we observe in practice?
    • Is the structural change magnitude relevant to cast light on the true essence of entrepreneurship?
  • Development of structural transformations
    • Through which mechanisms do structural transformations unfold?
    • How individual and organisational levels interact to enact structural transformations?
  • Impacts of structural transformations
    • What happens to those agents that challenge contexts towards a structural change?
    • How might social contexts take advantage of structural transformations?

We claim that broadening the spectrum of what constitutes entrepreneurship without reducing it as a simple creation of a new venture is fundamental to understanding the emergent organisations and those already established that show “[…] the ability to disrupt and declassify the existing distribution of the sensible” (Farias et al., 2019; p. 563). This reflection may contribute to more focused attention on organisational entrepreneurship, conceptualised both as a management strategy (Hjorth, 2012) and “[…] as an expression of transformative and creative efforts confronting the established structures, practices, and strategies” (Courpasson et al., 2016: 132).


Types of proposals Sought.

We invite scholars to submit their manuscripts, written in English, knowing that we are open to a wide range of studies that deal with the main topic of the call, namely structural transformation as a manifestation of entrepreneurship.

In terms of the type of study, we welcome theoretical (conceptual or review), qualitative, and quantitative studies at any level of analysis. Therefore, the study can be focused on the individual, group, and/or organisational level.



Main References

Courpasson, D., Dany, F., and Martí, I. (2016), “Organizational entrepreneurship as active resistance: A struggle against outsourcing”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 40 (1): 131-160. DOI: 10.1111/etap.12109.

Farias, C., Fernandez, P., Hjorth, D., and Holt, R. (2019), “Organizational entrepreneurship, politics and the political”, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 31 (7-8): 555-566. DOI: 10.1080/08985626.2019.1599186.

Fayolle, A., Landstrom, H., Gartner, W.B., and Berglund, K. (2016), “The institutionalization of entrepreneurship: Questioning the status quo and re-gaining hope for entrepreneurship research”, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 28 (7-8): 477-486. DOI: 10.1080/08985626.2016.1221227.

Hjorth, D. (2012), Handbook of organizational entrepreneurship. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar.

McMullen, J.S., and Shepherd, D.A. (2006), “Entrepreneurial action and the role of uncertainty in the theory of the entrepreneur”, Academy of Management Review, 31 (1): 132-152. DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2006.19379628.

McMullen, J.S., Ingram, K.M., and Adams, J. (2020), What Makes an Entrepreneurship Study Entrepreneurial? Toward A Unified Theory of Entrepreneurial Agency, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice: 1-42. DOI: 10.1177/1042258720922460.

Shane, S., and Venkataraman, S. (2000), “The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research”, Academy of Management Review, 25 (1): 217-226. DOI: 10.2307/259271.

Shepherd, D. A., Wennberg, K., Suddaby, R., and Wiklund, J. (2019), “What are we explaining? A review and agenda on initiating, engaging, performing, and contextualizing entrepreneurship”, Journal of Management, 45 (1): 159-196. DOI: 10.1177/0149206318799443.

Welter, F. (2011), “Contextualizing Entrepreneurship- Conceptual challenges and ways forward”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35 (1): 165–184. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00427.x.

Welter, F., and Baker, T. (2020) “Moving Contexts Onto New Roads: Clues From Other Disciplines”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. DOI: 10.1177/10422587 20930996.

Welter, F., Baker, T., Audretsch, D. B., and Gar:tner, W. B. (2017), “Everyday entrepreneurship—a call for entrepreneurship research to embrace entrepreneurial diversity”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41: 311-321. DOI: 10.1111/etap.12258.


Deadline for full paper submission: 31 January 2022

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