The Emergence of Organizational Forms: A Community Ecology Approach

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This article introduces a new ecological approach to the study of form emergence based on the notion of an organizational community - a bounded set of forms with related identities. Applying the approach to 48 organizational forms in the health care sector, this study suggests that the development of novel forms is affected by the positioning of their identities with respect to existing form identities in the community, by the aggregate density and size of organizations matching those existing identities, and by the amount of attention directed at identity attributes by sector participants. Findings show that the process of form emergence is subject to population-dependent effects akin to those noted previously for organizational entries within established populations. The aggregate density and size of organizations with similar identities increase the probability of form emergence to a point (cross-form legitimation), but highly saturated regions of the identity space tend to be uninviting to new forms (cross-form competition).





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Ruef, M (2000). The Emergence of Organizational Forms: A Community Ecology Approach. American Journal of Sociology, 106(3). pp. 658–714. 10.1086/318963 Retrieved from

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Martin Ruef

Jack and Pamela Egan Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

My research considers the social context of entrepreneurship from both a contemporary and historical perspective. I draw on large-scale surveys of entrepreneurs in the United States to explore processes of team formation, innovation, exchange, and boundary maintenance in nascent business startups. My historical analyses address entrepreneurial activity and constraint during periods of profound institutional change. This work has considered a diverse range of sectors, including the organizational transformation of Southern agriculture and industry after the Civil War, African American entrepreneurship under Jim Crow, the transition of the U.S. healthcare system from professional monopoly to managed care, and the character of entrepreneurship during early mercantile and industrial capitalism.

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