Energizing through visuals: How social entrepreneurs use emotion-symbolic work for social change

David Barberá-Tomás, Itziar Castelĺo, Frank G.A. De Bakker, Charlene Zietsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Little is known about how social entrepreneurs try to induce enactment of their cause, especially when this cause is difficult to embrace. Through a longitudinal study, we analyze how anti-plastic pollution social entrepreneurs use multimodal (visual and verbal) interactions to influence their targets and promote their cause. Our findings reveal that these social entrepreneurs use what we call "emotion-symbolic work," which involves using visuals and words to elicit negative emotions through moral shock, and then transforming those emotions into emotional energy for enactment. The emotional transformation process entails connecting target actors to a cause, a collective identity, and the social entrepreneurs themselves. Our exploration of emotion-symbolic work offers new ways of seeing by emphasizing the use of multimodal interactions to affect emotions in efforts to influence target actors to enact a cause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1789-1817
Number of pages29
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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