Exploring the Void: Institutional Entrepreneurship in Nature-based Tourism in Eastern Africa
01 / 2011 - 12 / 2011
Achieving sustainable development not only requires technological breakthroughs, but also institutional innovations (Geels, 2002). The concept of institutional entrepreneur in institutional theory refers to the actors who bring about such innovations (Hardy & Maguire, 2008). Studies of institutional entrepreneurship have mainly focused on Western countries, but institutional entrepreneurs also operate in developing nations where 'institutional voids' provide an opportunity structure for change (Mair & Marti, 2009). Particularly, organizational actors like nature conservation and development organizations, governments and tour operators are increasingly exploring how tourism can address the loss of biodiversity and persistent poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by introducing novel institutional arrangements like eco-labels, partnerships and conservation enterprises. There is thus an urgent need to theorize and comprehensively understand the role of tourism related innovations aiming at nature conservation and development from the perspective of institutional entrepreneurship. This research adopts a case study strategy to examine institutional entrepreneurship in nature-based tourism in the South. The empirical focus is on the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), a nature conservationist organization involved in the development of conservation enterprises like luxury eco-lodges, campsites and cultural villages in different African countries. By systematically comparing how these enterprises contribute to tourism, nature conservation and local development and what role is played by the AWF as institutional entrepreneur in this process, this research aims to assess tourism's potential as an ethically, economically viable and socially desirable means of payment for ecosystems and to formulate recommendations on how to design tourism ventures enhancing local development and nature conservation.