Research Digest Which work conditions keep digital social innovators committed?


In Success of organisations developing digital social innovation: Analysis of motivational key drivers, published in the Journal of Business Research, ESCP Business School researchers Laura Rodrigo and Miguel Palacios, along with co-authors Isabel Ortiz-Marcos and Javier Romero from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, determine what combination of motivational and hygiene factors must be satisfied in order for digital social innovation (DSI) professionals to achieve a high level of organisational commitment.

Why study this

The development of adaptive, efficient organisations that can leverage digital tools to bring innovative social solutions to market is particularly relevant to pursue social change from a bottom-up approach. But in a context of diminished or even disappearing funding, DSI organisations must rely on the involvement and loyalty of professionals, more so than on traditional economic rewards. So to retain their commitment, either as paid professionals or as volunteers, these organisations need to know which factors influence it. A survey of 56 professionals in Spain, the second most active European country in terms of DSI initiatives, identifies the combination of extrinsic and intrinsic job conditions that lead to organisational commitment, and to the lack of it.


  • Two extrinsic (hygiene) conditions necessary to generate high organisational commitment are low dissatisfaction with neither physical working conditions (amount of work, facilities...) nor relationships with fellow workers. 
  • The intrinsic (motivational) conditions that appear necessary for achieving high commitment are: the freedom to choose the method of working, the responsibility assigned to the professional and the variety of the tasks performed. 
  • The research identified as sufficient conditions for high commitment: the variety of the work (a core condition), high satisfaction with the choice of methods, the recognition, the responsibility and the opportunity to use personal abilities, peripheral conditions. 
  • Low dissatisfaction with pay rate, relationships between managers and workers, and firm management appear to be neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for high commitment.
  • High satisfaction with recognition, opportunities to use personal abilities, chances of promotion or attention paid to suggestions appear to be neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for high commitment.
  • Low dissatisfaction with physical working conditions and high satisfaction with the variety of the work are both necessary and sufficient conditions. 
  • The low coverage of the necessary conditions found that explain the absence or low commitment, as well as the low coverage of the combinations of sufficient conditions found, suggest the existence of other causal conditions and combinations that have not been captured in the analysis as a result of the characteristics of the sample. 

New technologies provide communities with tools for grassroots empowerment, allowing them to share solutions to common problems. The professionals in charge of stimulating these projects, which mobilise not only the other partners involved but also the grassroots themselves, are fundamental to achieving the social goal they pursue.

Key insight

Low dissatisfaction with working conditions and relationships with colleagues, as well as high satisfaction generated by the ability to choose one's own working methods, the level of responsibility acquired and the variety of tasks assigned, rather than salary, are the necessary conditions for high commitment among DSI professionals.


The fact that funding for social projects dries up will not necessarily jeopardise the commitment to the social cause already acquired from professionals. Instead, to attract and retain talent, organisations in the field of digital social innovation need to be responsive to the needs of the people involved and maintain an adequate level of job satisfaction, particularly with regard to intrinsic drivers of motivation.

Final takeaways

“The implication for practitioners is the need to address an organisational design approach. Building commitment requires the orientation of professional profiles, compensation packages and job characteristics to the careful definition of particular challenging responsibilities, such that individuals have opportunities to put their skills into practice and can choose the methods used in carrying out their tasks. Therefore, the management of these organisations must pay particular attention when developing their organisational designs to the quantity and quality of the social relationships established during the development of the projects,” the authors write. This would make it possible to achieve the minimum dissatisfaction of the professional when cooperating with the rest of the colleagues in the organisation. Organisational design applies particularly to the physical characteristics of the project, as this is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for high commitment. Finally, there is an opportunity to work on intrinsic drivers, especially when DSI organisations lack financial resources to alleviate low wages.


Laura Rodrigo Laura Rodrigo PhD candidate and researcher attached to the European Horizon H2020 funded project STARS4ALL at ESCP Business School (Madrid campus)
Isabel Ortiz-Marcos Isabel Ortiz-Marcos Associate Professor of Engineering Projects and Project Management and Director of the Leadership and Technology Center at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Miguel Palacios - ESCP Business School Miguel Palacios Professor of Management and Executive Education Associate Dean at ESCP Business School (Madrid campus)
Javier Romero Javier Romero Professor of Business Management, Business Games and Business and the Environment at the School of Industrial Engineering of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid