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Entrepreneurial activity in community health promotion organisations: Findings from an ethnographic study

Magdalena Zasada (University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




This paper aims to examine the suitability of a social enterprise model for community health promotion organisations working in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It focuses on organisational culture, social resources and capacity as pre-requisites for entrepreneurial activities.


This paper is based on ethnographic case studies in England, including semi-structured interviews with the organisations’ staff, trustees and external stakeholders; participant observation; creative method workshops with staff; and feedback meetings with staff and trustees.


The paper provides empirical insights into the potential for, and the consequences of, introducing entrepreneurial ways of working to community health promotion organisations. It suggests that pre-existing capacity, competencies and skills, as well as the ability to manage cultural hybridity, are key factors.

Research limitations/implications

Studying three organisations allowed comparative analysis, but time constraints limited access to some stakeholders and meant that the researcher could not be continuously present. Fieldwork generated a series of “snapshots” of each organisation at several time points.


Community health promotion organisations should be mindful of the social and cultural implications of following the entrepreneurial route to income generation. Policymakers need to be more aware of the challenges community health promotion organisations face in taking on entrepreneurial ways of working.


This paper contributes new empirical insights into the process of community health promotion organisations adopting entrepreneurial ways of working. This is underpinned by Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, which provides a new theoretical lens for examining the social and cultural aspects of this transition.



This article is based on research funded by the University of Southampton and the Third Sector Research Centre, whose support is gratefully acknowledged. The author would like to thank Prof John Mohan and Prof Pauline Leonard for supervising this research, as well as the editors and two anonymous reviewers, for their valuable comments and suggestions on the article.


Zasada, M. (2017), "Entrepreneurial activity in community health promotion organisations: Findings from an ethnographic study", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 13 No. 02, pp. 144-162.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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