Hijacked by Hope: Dynamics of Mission Drift and Identity Dilution in a Nonprofit Organization

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This paper addresses how organizational identity and mission are constructed and reproduced over time through processes of remembering and forgetting. Building on literature that views organizational memory as a strategic resource, this paper showcases the enabling effects of history, memory, and the past for organizational resilience and survival. Although temporal narratives may be employed as rhetorical tools to construct coherency between the past, present, and future, we find they also have the potential of sidetracking and hijacking an organization’s direction. Our study shows how an excessive focus on the future can cause mission drift and identity dilution. However, the identity dilution can be resolved through revisiting and remembering the past. The organizational past is not merely a strategic resource for identity construction, it is also a temporal anchor from which the organization may (re)discover its original purpose. The findings are based on a qualitative, in-depth, ethnographic case study of a nonprofit organization whose goal is to establish a national network of local school gardens.
Translated title of the contributionSequestrado pela esperança: Dinâmicas de desvio da missão e dissolução de identidade em uma organização sem fins lucrativos
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019-0432
JournalRAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Organizational identity
  • Organizational memory
  • Historical narrative
  • Temporal focus
  • Nonprofit organization

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