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Organization Science

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Non-profit Organizations -- management


To survive, nascent grassroots organizations—and their respective causes—must earn the trust of various audiences that can impact credibility advancement. However, it can be quite difficult for grassroots organizations to access suitable settings, times, and collocated audiences. One context that can yield this type of access is an event, as it constitutes a rare opportunity for organizations to engage in practices that impact credibility advancement. We investigate how a volunteer-based grassroots organization orchestrates a high-profile event at the United Nations to promote African diaspora entrepreneurs as a valuable force in the mitigation of development challenges in their home countries. We employ qualitative data collected from ethnographic observations, interviews, and secondary sources and apply grounded theory approaches to demonstrate how organizational credibility can be advanced through performative strategizing within event settings. Drawing from heuristics used in theatrical performances, we found that the grassroots organization mobilized specific audience groups in participative role-playing across two acts, thereby producing and consecrating a temporary simulacrum of a cause-related community it claimed to represent. Our findings demonstrate how an unproven organization can strategically use audience mobilization to convert event settings into performative spaces for simulacrum creation and credibility advancement.


Copyright (2021) the authors.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published as:

Simulating the cause: How grassroots organizations advance their credibility through the dramaturgical curation of events. Organization Science, doi: 10.1287/orsc.2021.1489



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