Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises


Maria Minniti


A growing body of literature in management looks at how organizations create public value in response to complex social issues. Complex social issues, including public safety, education, homelessness, and fire prevention, are the result of market frictions, including those associated with the provision of public goods, information asymmetries, or negative externalities. To date, the field has focused on how individual organizations or partnerships can ease these frictions to create public value. Complex social issues, however, are systemic in nature and cannot be fully addressed by individual organizations or partnerships alone. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the self-organizing potential of communities in response to complex social issues. I take a new institutional economics lens to argue that value creation in the context of complex social issues requires a community level of analysis. Knowledge is distributed. When a community self-organizes to address a common goal and, in particular, when it collaborates with organizations across levels, the combination of local and global knowledge enables the discovery of new opportunities to address market frictions. Similarly, the effectiveness of a community’s organizations also depends on their capacity to experiment and identify new tasks for which they possess comparative advantages for completing. I operationalize my study using an original longitudinal dataset of the organizations and self-organizing communities of actors that seek to address the threat of fires in California. Results show that communities taking local actions and coordinating them with state and federal organizations manage wildfires better and experience fewer property losses than communities that rely solely on public organizations. The strength and number of stakeholders involved in cross-level collaborations reinforce this effect. Further, I find evidence that organizations are better able to create public value when their capacity to address social problems is not constrained by formal governance structures, but rather depends on how easily organizations can search for comparative advantages within a more diverse organizational mix. Thus, my findings underscore the importance of leveraging organizational diversity, local knowledge, and cross-level support and collaborations between communities and public administrations operating at different hierarchical levels (i.e., local, regional, and national). This has important implications for developing the collaborative strategies needed to respond to complex and challenging social issues.


Open Access

Available for download on Saturday, January 17, 2026