Social Movement Organization Leaders and the Creation of Markets for “Local” Goods

Business and Society 55 (7):1017-1058 (2016)
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Abstract

Research illustrates that social movements can fuel new markets and that these markets can create social change, but the role of leaders in this process is less understood. This exploratory interview-based study of the localism movement contributes to such understanding. It articulates the relationship of social movement leaders and the legitimacy of their organizations to new market creation. Specifically, leaders in this study engaged in a dual role to legitimize their organizations and to legitimize the movement. At an organizational level, leaders chose strategies that conformed to a conventional organizational model of the social movement organization as a business network, much like a local chamber of commerce. At a movement level, the SMO’s level of legitimacy influenced the leader’s choice of strategies to grow a “local” market. These strategies aimed, primarily, to shape consumer purchase behavior and, secondarily, to foster the development of producers’ skills, and only in a tertiary way, to alter the nature of exchange. Finally, this study’s findings suggest a tension between the dual roles that may ultimately challenge the efficacy of the movement.

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