Working For Impact, But Failing to Experience It: Exploring Individuals’ Sensemaking in Social Enterprises


Individuals start and join social enterprises to catalyze social impact but may not subjectively experience their work as impactful. In this article, the authors inductively uncover when social enterprise members question the impactfulness of their work and how they engage in sensemaking to experience their work as impactful. Exploring the experiences of members across two social enterprises with different missions, they provide insights into instances creating ambiguity of or discrepancies in impactfulness and unearth how individuals navigate these in different circumstances with two distinct sensemaking practices: internalizing and compensating. They reveal the efforts required to experience work as impactful, highlight the heterogeneity and agency in maintaining this perception, and suggest a potential dark side for members and missions of social enterprises.

Reflective Analysis

This journal underlines a valid point and calls our attention to the effectiveness of the social impact. Experiencing work as impactful may or may not be predetermined by the organizational mission or specific task, but it is interpreted and constructed by the individual as an active agent. This inductive study explicated when members of social enterprises question the impactfulness of their everyday work and how they navigate these instances through internalizing and compensating sensemaking practices, depending on the cues they encounter.


Working for impact, but failing to experience it: Exploring individuals … (2023).