Narratives of transition from social to enterprise: You can’t get there from here!
April 19, 2013 Editor 0
Purpose – In response to calls to critically analyse and conceptually advance social enterprise, we examine narratives and models representing a spectrum of social enterprise from the ‘social’ to the ‘economic’. We test these against the experience of practitioners who were either employees in social organisations or support workers tasked with promoting social enterprise. This is timely against a background of imperatives from central governments for social organisations to compete for the delivery of public services and become more ‘entrepreneurial’.
Design/methodology/approach – We report qualitative research in which participants were invited to draw lines and arrows onto spectrum models to illustrate the social and economic contexts they perceived themselves to be working within. The data comprise interviews and drawings, combined with verbal descriptions of the drawings and reflections on their significance.
Findings – We show how participants interpreted the ‘social’ and ‘economic’ of social enterprise in pictures and words. The research suggests that social enterprise can not be told as a single narrative but as a set of little stories showing oscillations, contradictions and paradox.
Research limitations/implications – Understanding of social enterprise can be much improved by giving greater recognition to ambiguities and compromises within the lived experience of contemporary practice.
Originality/value – The article offers new reflection on widely used images that represent social enterprise along a dichotomous, polar spectrum from social to economic.
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