Ac(c)apreneurship accountability and accountable ac(c)apreneurship

Giuseppe Grossi, Giovanni Landi, Rossana Spanó

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Over the last decades the debate on hybridity, and hybrid organizations has gained increasing attention and has fueled a vast debate in management and, more recently, in accounting literature. Hybrid organizations have been understood as organizational arrangements that rely upon and mobilize
resources, governance structures, accountability practices and logics derived from different sectors (public, private for-profit and non-profit third sector) with divergent goals (Battilana and Lee 2014; Pache and Santos 2013). The chameleon concept of “hybrid” puts forth a number of discourses relating to value
pluralism and the chance that possible diverging/conflicting logics can be accommodated towards greater public value creation (Vakkuri, and Johanson, 2020). How these dynamic synergies actually take place has been variously addressed in literature yet leaving room for further theoretical and empirical inquiry.
Among others, an interesting question pertains how do multiple values shape accounting and accountability practices, and reversely, in hybrid organizations.
More specifically, to answer this question it is worth taking into account that there is no consensus in extant research on the development of accounting and accountability practices in hybrid organizational settings. Akin to hybrid organizations, value pluralism states that because of the existence of multiple
realms and forms of valuing, individuals and societies may deem more than one type of value to be worthwhile or important to pursue (Castellas et al., 2019). On the one hand, we find skepticism mainly related to the fact that actors with divergent values and goals may limit the identification of a common
mission for the organization, negatively impinging it ability to valuing and disclosing results (Hyndman and McConville 2018; Abdullah et al. 2018). On the other hand, multiplicity is somehow regarded as an advantage and an enriching factor that possibly contributes to broader accountability and value creation
(Mongelli et al. 2019).
What should be noted is that accounting literature so far, although rich and heterogeneous, has failed, in addressing the above cited theme taking into consideration an additional, yet crucial perspective.
Indeed, we argue here that the issues under scrutiny require a preliminary understanding of the identity tensions that can take place at both the organizational level (meso-level) and the individual level (micro-level) that shape the hybrid nature of the organization and its actors. We contend that accounting and accountability practices in this domain should not be simply
considered as practices that organizations - called to be hybrid - may or may not develop due to a number of contextual and cultural factors. Instead, we argue here that accounting and accountability practices, logics and values may actually be constitutive for hybrid organizations, as a means of aligning conflicting logics and objectives from the outset, both at the organizational and individual level. Such alignment, in turn, may well favor greater reliance on accounting and accountability practices.
These issues are of extreme relevance in the complex and multifaceted domain of academic entrepreneurship that combines “pro-social, community-spirited motives” of a nonprofit organization with the “entrepreneurial process of pursuing opportunity” of a market-based organization (Crow et al., 2020).
In this field, usually indicated as a possible setting for hybrid organizations to occur, the existence of several conflicting logics and identities tackling the organizational and the individual level, is often likely to threaten a systematic broad value creation. Therefore, the understanding of how multiplicity of values
and related identities (the academic and the entrepreneurial ones) turns into hybridity (unveiling something that we could label as ac(c)apreurship), both at the individual and organizational level, rather than in the prevalence of several logics becomes paramount. Thus, our paper aims to answer the following research questions:
How do accounting and accountability can be constitutive of ac(c)apreneurship identities?
How do ac(c)apreneurship identities favor the development of accounting and accountability practices?
To this aim the research employs a theoretically informed ethnographic approach based on the case study of the academic spin-off MegaRide of the University of Naples Federico II (Italy), and based on publicly available documents, internal reports, and semi-structured interviews with the founding team and
the employees of the company. MegaRide represents a successful example of academic spin-off, where hybrid ac(c)apreneurial identities emerged both at the individual level and at the organizational level, leading over the years to successful activities of technological transfer with undeniable impact on the
territory and the society. The success of MegaRide is strongly rooted in the positive synergies that the founding team was capable to create, both inside and outside the university, with key actors and gaining complimentary competences, which favored an aware and welcomed process of hybridization not
limitedly to the micro level, but soon translated to the meso level. The findings of this case study allow us to put forth how accounting and accountability practices played a prominent steering role in the hybridization process of MegaRide, and how contextual and cultural features influenced the phenomena under scrutiny. In particular, the study shows how the founders have progressively abandoned their
double identities, i.e., as academics and entrepreneurs, turning into ac(c)apreneurs and feeling comfortable in this hybrid new role despite any initial obstacles and difficulties. This resulted in the spin-off able to manage virtuous synergies and superseding the separation between research and industry,
developing a valuable mix on both sides thanks to the constant attention for internal and external accountability. This, on the one hand constitutes one of the main drivers of MegaRide mission fueling its value creation processes, and on the other hand brings the company accountable to a wide range of stakeholders, increasing its reputation, recognition, and ability to broadly impact on the territory and society.
The study expands the debate on hybrid organizations from a twofold perspective. On the one hand it complements literature with insights into the academic entrepreneurship field, to date quite overlooked, in spite of the multifaceted features that render it a context worth to examine in more detail, especially in areas other than the Anglo-Saxon ones, where the risk of academic spin-off failures tends to be significative due to contextual and cultural features. Secondly, it allows us to better tap into the ontological foundations of hybrid organizations, fostering a more informed debate on what hybridity actually entails, beyond any formal features, and focusing on the real blended nature of such organizations and the founder identities. Indeed, the case of academic spin-off highly topical as in these organizations it is likely that hybridity remains on paper, with the spin-off only constituting a nexus of contracts or alternatively a
status symbol. The current paper instead advances the debate on what hybridity practically entails in the under investigated academic entrepreneurship field and how accounting and accountability can foster such positive outcomes. These contributions are not limited to a theoretical domain, as they pave the way
for richer reflections with practical relevance and, especially, could be of interest for the Higher Education Institutions and for policy makers in re-shaping the actual policies aimed at overcoming the research education-value creation-practice-industrial divide(s)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021-Jun-24
EventCIGAR 18th Virtual Biennial Conference 2021 on "Public Sector Accounting for a Sustainable Future” - Virtual
Duration: 2021-Jun-242021-Jun-25


ConferenceCIGAR 18th Virtual Biennial Conference 2021 on "Public Sector Accounting for a Sustainable Future”
Abbreviated titleCIGAR Conference 2021

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Business Administration (50202)


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