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Representation of intellectual capital’s components amongst Italian social enterprises

Paula Benevene (LUMSA University, Rome, Italy)
Eric Kong (School of Management and Marketing, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia)
Barbara Barbieri (Universita degli Studi di Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy)
Massimiliano Lucchesi (LUMSA University, Rome, Italy)
Michela Cortini (University G. d’Annunzio, Chieti, Italy)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to understand the representation that senior managers of Italian social enterprises have about their organization’s intellectual capital (IC), precisely about the human capital, relational capital and organizational capital.


This paper used a qualitative approach. A total of 81 senior managers were interviewed individually. Interview data were analyzed using different techniques of content analysis, particularly by using the T-Lab software (analysis of word occurrence and co-word mapping, analysis of Markovian sequences).


Findings confirm the divide between theory and practice of IC. The representation of the IC dimensions is rather different from the definition that is found in the academic literature. Limited awareness about IC components and their generative power of knowledge determines a limited exploitation of the social enterprises’ organizational knowledge.

Research limitations/implications

The group reached is limited to Italy and is not statistically representative of all Italian social enterprises.

Practical implications

Social enterprises are crucial in the development and well-being of societies. However, the findings suggest that many social enterprises managers are not fully aware of the importance of IC and how it may create value for their organizations. This paper stresses that senior managers of social enterprises need to, through various methods, have a better understanding of IC management and knowledge creation if they are to fully utilise the potential of IC in their organizations for survival and growth.


This is the first attempt to explore the perception of IC’s components among social enterprises, which represent an important development of non-profit organizations.



Benevene, P., Kong, E., Barbieri, B., Lucchesi, M. and Cortini, M. (2017), "Representation of intellectual capital’s components amongst Italian social enterprises", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 564-587.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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