Social and solidarity economy enterprises (SSEEs) are facing increasing pressure to expand their impact. One potential strategy to achieve this is for a group of organizations in the same activity field to pool their underutilized resources and equipment on a shared platform. This approach aims to enable user-organizations to meet an unfulfilled demand, thereby creating a collective offering and increasing the overall production. In this paper, we present the findings of a longitudinal case study examining a meta-organization engaging in such an endeavor within the social and solidarity economy (SSE), in the food security sector. Based on in-depth interviews, content analysis of organization documents, and observations from a year-long internship, this research explores the paradoxical tensions that arise during the implementation of the social innovation.
While existing literature generally focuses on paradoxical tensions within individual organizations, our research explored the tensions experienced by a network of organizations. Such networks are likely to generate paradoxical tensions within and between organizations as they coordinate their actions. Our research highlights the need for SSEEs to reconcile a range of generic organizational tensions and those specific to their very nature. As the network serves the interests of individual organizations while increasing their collective impact, additional tensions emerge. Moreover, the non-linear trajectory of a SI’s implementation also generates its own series of paradoxical tensions.
Our results demonstrate the relevance of examining meta-organizations from a paradox perspective, revealing tensions unique to their organizational dynamics, and those between the meta-organization and its member organizations and ecosystem partners. We also identify specific tensions related to implementing social innovations within the SSE.