Navigating uncertainty and finding purpose in social mission-driven organizations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This doctoral dissertation investigates the work of social mission-driven organizations operating in contexts of uncertainty. By understanding how disruptive events affect organizations and their members' sense of purpose and meaningfulness, research can provide valuable insights into how these organizations can continue to create social impact in turbulent times. My thesis thus examines how uncertainty impacts social mission, purpose, and organizational members' perceptions of meaningful work in these shifting contexts. I explore these questions through three empirical studies. The first essay explains how a social initiative copes with dynamic uncertainty while planning a future event in a highly uncertain context. The findings contribute to the literature on sensemaking and uncertainty by showing how teams, through different strategies, can facilitate collective sensemaking under dynamic uncertainty by shaping the premises and temporal scope of the sensemaking situation. In the second essay, I examine the work of host-country aid workers during a compound crisis. This research contributes to the literature on meaningful work by demonstrating how societal events can undermine a sense of meaningfulness and how organizational members can restore it through "meaningfulness work". The third essay explores how members influence the formation and evolution of organizational purpose in a nascent social venture. This essay contributes to the literature by highlighting the organizational members' role in this process and theorizing organizational purpose as a nexus that connects organizational members to the social issues, they find important. Our empirical analysis shows how members create bottom-up pressures that shift the social purpose towards having a concrete impact on beneficiaries. The three different perspectives on social organizations in contexts of uncertainty contribute to our understanding of social mission-driven organizations by examining their specific challenges and dynamics of organizational membership.
Translated title of the contributionNavigating uncertainty and finding purpose in social mission-driven organizations
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Schildt, Henri, Supervising Professor
  • Kodeih, Farah, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-1384-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-1385-3
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • social mission-driven organizations
  • uncertainty
  • purpose
  • meaningful work


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