This paper summarises key issues arising from a comprehensive research monograph and accompanying discussion paper on social enterprise that reviewed over 150 sources. It aims to provide insight into the future development of the social enterprise research agenda, and how to attract scholars new to the field to contribute to it.
The paper seeks to identify and address some of the difficulties faced by social enterprise researchers, in terms of defining their field, overcoming institutional pressures that may deter scholars from tackling the social enterprise research agenda and in dealing with some of its complexities.
In developing the monograph, two key themes were diversity and distinctiveness. Social enterprise is a form of business that is distinctly different to conventional commercial enterprise and that has an extraordinary diversity in organisational form, legal structure, purpose, culture, scale and scope. There are also a number of “paradoxical” elements to the research agenda for social enterprises arising from their “hybrid” nature.
These findings create many challenges for researchers, practitioners and policy‐makers, not least in terms of defining social enterprises consistently, and also in terms of understanding what makes them different to commercial enterprises and what the implications of those differences are.
The insights provided by this discussion should help to resolve and explain some of the debates and conceptual and practical difficulties that have hampered the development of the social enterprise research agenda.
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