This paper argues that we need a more disciplined understanding of social enterprise (SE) that is able to incorporate its diversity across different contexts, yet remains sympathetic to its core ideal of value creation. This paper aims to revisit the meaning of value creation to reflect critically upon the diverse forms of SE.
This paper uses the Aristotelian causes, namely, the formal, efficient and final causes, to problematize the meaning of value creation.
This paper shows that SEs can create or destroy value depending on who evaluates the value. It also raises the issue that how value is created – the motives, means and action – is affected by the ethical orientation of the actors. Lastly, it encourages researchers to pay attention to how stakeholders are defined in SE, in light of the diverse nature of organizations that are labelled as SEs.
This paper demonstrates that the current definition of SE is inadequate, and to-some extent, problematic. It then proposes some future research agendas, to unpack the issue of value creation, through social cost, politics, transparency and legal perspectives.
This research makes new contribution to the SE literature by injecting an Aristotelian perspective to problematize and reframe the meaning of value creation. It asks scholars to answer these questions: from whose perspective is value created or destroyed (formal cause), how is value created (efficient cause) and for whom is the value created (final cause)?
This research was supported by the Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council General Research Fund awarded to the author (GRF Project Number: 11675716).
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