Dissertation Watch: Examining Social Marketing’s Institutionalization within Environmental Contexts

Dr. Liz Foote, PhD in Environmental Studies alum, published her dissertation titled, The Diffusion of a Discipline: Examining Social Marketing’s Institutionalization within Environmental Contexts.

As a social change discipline, social marketing has demonstrated its effectiveness in addressing many types of wicked problems. However, despite its utility in environmental contexts, it is neither well known nor widespread in its uptake in these settings. This study’s purpose is to reveal opportunities to drive the adoption, implementation, and diffusion (“institutionalization”) of social marketing within the domains of environmental sustainability and natural resource conservation.

This research considers the use of social marketing as an innovative practice within a diffusion of innovations framework and uses a systems lens to examine early adopter social marketing professionals and the institutional contexts in which they operate. It employs an exploratory sequential mixed-methods research design within a two-phased inquiry consisting of three independent but interconnected studies.

This study also identified disconnects affecting social marketing’s institutionalization; most notably a gap between the initiation and implementation stages of the organizational innovation process, and a gap in perceived efficacy between the micro and meso systems levels. Recommendations for practice were proposed to address these gaps. This study’s contribution to theory and practice centers around demonstrating the utility of a systems approach to explore and identify elements of organizational culture that can be considered potential leverage points for advancing the institutionalization of social marketing.

Download and read the dissertation here.