Can Cross-Sector Support Help Social Enterprises in Legitimacy Building? The Mixed Effects in Hong Kong


  • Ming Ma Nanjing School of Administration
  • Yi Kang Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Yuyan Feng Hong Kong Baptist University



Social Enterprise, Legitimacy, Institutional Pressures, Cross-Sector Collaboration, Metagovernance


Cross-sector collaboration is widely considered beneficial for the sustainable development of social enterprises (SEs). This study provides a nuanced assessment of the impacts of cross-sector collaboration in supporting SE development (cross-sector support; CSS) by highlighting legitimacy building as the crucial goal for SEs in achieving sustainability. Studying Hong Kong, we examine the institutional pressures confronting SEs in their legitimacy building, their efforts to respond, and the role of CSS therein. Data from surveys and in-depth interviews show that the three key types of CSS—venture capital, operational, and promotional—have mixed effects on the efforts of SEs to cope with the various institutional pressures. Our findings suggest the necessity of an integrated blend of governance styles—a metagovernance approach—in shaping and guiding CSS of SEs and an approach that is sensitive to the plural, changing pressures in SE entrepreneurial processes to achieve financial sustainability as well as social legitimacy.

Author Biographies

Ming Ma, Nanjing School of Administration

Ming Ma is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Nanjing School of Administration, 190 Lingshan North Road, Jiangsu, China. He received his PhD in government and international studies from Hong Kong Baptist University (

Yi Kang, Hong Kong Baptist University

Yi Kang is Associate Professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, Academic and Administration Building, Baptist University Road Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong SAR. She received her PhD in political science from Yale University. She is author of Disaster Management in China in a Changing Era (2015). She has published articles in Journal of Contemporary China, China Information, China Review, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, etc. (

Yuyan Feng, Hong Kong Baptist University

Yuyan Feng is a student of the Master of Public Administration Programme at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her current research interests include cross sector collaboration, institutional theory, and philanthropic organizations (






Research Articles