The Sociomaterial Negotiation of Social Entrepreneurs’ Meaningful Work

Gillian Symon, Rebecca Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research examines the role of digital technology in the constitution of meaningful work. Adopting a sociomaterial perspective, we argue that meaningful work emerges as an outcome of a complex negotiation between individuals and their digital devices. This process was explored through video diaries and interviews with social entrepreneurs, capturing moments of their everyday meaning-making and encouraging reflexivity. Accounting for their sociomaterial practice led participants to reaffirm their work as uniquely meaningful, produce more nuanced accounts of meaningfulness and/or make pragmatic adjustments to their meaning making. Whilst authenticity was a key meta-narrative in these accounts, it also produced tensional knots which, in their unravelling, required the adoption of more practicable meanings of work. The paper concludes by urging scholars to de-centre the human from their analysis to provide a more complete account of meaningful work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-684
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number3
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Digital technology; Meaningful work; Narrative; Social Entrepreneurs; Sociomateriality; Tensions

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