This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Multi-Study Examination of the Role of Values in the Venture Legitimation Process in the Sharing Economy: A Values Work Perspective




McSweeney, Jordan

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




This dissertation utilizes a value driven theoretical framework, coupled with a multi-study design to examine how values influence venture legitimation processes under conditions of institutional instability (i.e., study I) and stability (i.e., study II). I utilize the emerging value-laden sharing economy as an analytical context. In study one, I develop a website analogous to Airbnb and conduct an online experiment to provide a deeper examination of the microprocesses of legitimacy by specifically focusing on how values as manifested in material practices (i.e., narratives and visuals), shape consumers’ perceptions of a venture’s legitimacy and influence consumers’ actions with the venture. In study two, I adopt a configurational case-based approach, specifically, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), to examine which configurations of values manifested in both individual consumers evaluations (i.e., propriety evaluations) and collective validity evaluations (e.g., third party certifications) increase consumers’ perceptions of a ventures legitimacy leading to positive consumer reactions in the form of lower levels of venture availability and, contrastingly, which configurations lead to negative perceptions of a venture’s legitimacy leading to negative consumer reactions in the form of higher venture availability? Further, I examine how the configurations of legitimacy signals that influence positive and negative legitimacy evaluations differ for both new and experienced entrepreneurs across different contexts and market segments? The primary goal of this study was to better understand the role of values in the venture legitimation process. While the legitimacy literature acknowledges the role of values, they have not been explicitly theorized. Therefore, I integrate the emerging values work and values spheres literatures to develop a value laden theoretical framework to guide the study. The results of the study highlight that the legitimation process is an inherently complex one. While the results of study one did not support my theorizing, additional analyses do provide some support for the role values play as well as insight into the decision-making processes of consumers within the sharing economy. In study two, I show that there are multiple paths within the same macro context and market for different types of entrepreneurs to (un)successfully influence consumers perceptions of a ventures legitimacy. Building on this I develop a values-based theory of venture legitimation that calls attention to the importance of values bundling for entrepreneurs to influence legitimacy perceptions of their ventures, and thereby future performance. Overall, this dissertation’s ultimate contribution was to take a step toward a better understanding of the role values play in the venture legitimation process.