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Making sense of social enterprise

Pam Seanor (Has 20 years experience of working in co‐operatives, developing community projects in local development trusts and regeneration projects and has also worked with a variety of community groups across Kirklees)
Julia Meaton (Head of the Centre for Enterprise, Ethics and the Environment research unit and Senior Lecturer at the Huddersfield University School of Business where she teaches social entrepreneurship)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 30 March 2007




To study the ways in which the people involve in social enterprises make sense out of what they are trying to do.


The study focused on the issues and concerns of participants in a social enterprise network in Bradford, UK, where the network includes both social enterprises and agencies offering them support. Explains that the study aimed to examine the relationship between the development of social enterprise and organizational identity, processes and problems to determine what shared meanings and sense of shared identity are used by participants to make sense of social enterprise, how these are related to actions and projects within the social enterprise sector, and whether there is network integrity in responding and adapting to changes. Reports on a case study involving exploratory semi‐structured interviews, between November 2005 and February 2006, with 11 key actors involved in social enterprise networks in Bradford, all of which were involved in either delivering services to the community or from agencies tasked with supporting these groups.


Five key themes emerged from the interviews: identifying as a social entrepreneur; organizational identity; common language; growth; and networking. Concludes that the factors involved in the way that actors in social enterprises make sense of their activities include: identity, where most organizations did not identify a heroic leader nor would they choose to become social entrepreneurs; lack of a common metaphor; staying small; and fragmentation.


Provides a useful starting point from which to explore the problems faced by social enterprise organizations.



Seanor, P. and Meaton, J. (2007), "Making sense of social enterprise", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 90-100.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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