Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Gary Kelsey


The nonprofit sector is increasingly engaged in social enterprise, which involves a

combination and balancing of social mission and business goals which can cause mission

drift or mission tension. A work integrated social enterprise (WISE) is a specific type of

social enterprise that focuses on integrating hard-to-employ individuals, such as ex

offenders, back into the workforce, usually through producing goods or offering services.

Little is known about how WISE organizations manage mission drift, particularly given

the unique characteristics of this type of organization. Using institutional values theory

and resource dependence theory as the foundation, the purpose of this case study was to

explore how a WISE in Indiana experience and manage mission drift and mission

tension. Data were collected from semistructured interviews with 4 board members and

4 staff persons, and from organizational documents. All data were inductively coded and

subjected to a constant, comparative analysis between empirical and predictive themes.

The study revealed the organization has not experienced mission drift or mission tension

because, (a) there was a strong mission and a commitment by the board and staff to the

mission, (b) there was a constant balancing act between mission and income, (c) business

goals aligned with mission, and (d) operating systems were in place for mission

sustainability. The positive social change implications stemming from this study include

providing beneficial information about best practices and strategies to other organizations

seeking to develop WISE programs that provide opportunities and training for difficult to

employ populations.