Assembling group identities in nascent fields: revisiting a population-level perspective
As it happens, probing such questions is best done with a particular focus on organizational emergence in ‘nascent fields’. This is because in such fields of endeavour generic forms are not yet settled, which means that entrepreneurs must grope around to develop viable recipes. It is thus an ideal context to examine how generic forms themselves emerge. This is a challenging area of research. Organizational social science – both institutionally and ecologically minded – has somewhat of a weak spot with respect to how forms emerge. And there is consensus among leading scholars in organizational social science that there has been insufficient attention to the origins of organizational forms (Padgett and Powell 2012; Fiol and Romanelli 2012). Thus, this chapter contributes to the specific problem facing group scholars, while also speaking to broader conceptual challenges in organizational studies. Theories of institutional innovation and entrepreneurship are used to explore how agents create new or composite forms in nascent fields from the fragments of abutting or even remote fields of practice. In what follows, this gap is addressed through an effort at deconstructing and reconstructing organizational variation within a discrete population of interest groups. For reasons mostly of convenience, the setting for this analysis is, again, the set of UK environmental groups belonging to the Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) (the same population as examined in Chapter 4). Attention is paid to how elements or building blocks from diverse fields of endeavour are assembled over time to comprise the set of forms that we can see these groups manifest today. Both aggregate and individual cases are examined to come closer to an understanding of how (diverse) forms evolve. New models emerge from the (unique) engagement of ideas from different fields of activity as much as the innate creativity of individual agents.