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Social enterprises in quasi-markets: exploring the critical knowledge gaps

Chris Mason (Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia)
Michael J. Roy (Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Gemma Carey (Centre for Social Impact, School of Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 7 August 2019




This paper aims to explore how social enterprises are treated in scholarly research on quasi-markets. In so doing, the paper aims to show that a number of critical knowledge gaps persist which require deeper engagement from researchers, practitioners and policymakers alike.


This study adopts a conceptual analysis of the existing literature concerning social enterprises and quasi-markets.


The paper finds that there are four main knowledge gaps in this area. First, there are moral dilemmas created by boundary shifts, arising from the development of quasi-markets. Second, the phenomenon of “tactical mimicry” (Day and Teasdale 2016) represents a key theoretical platform not yet fully explored. Third, the lack of clear, comparative assessments of social enterprises across quasi-markets, and other types of service providers is also apparent despite offering a significant methodological opportunity for scholars. Fourth, there is the issue of how social enterprises engage in, and resource the operational functions that will support their management of conflicting logics, especially rigorous impact measurement.


This paper uses a synthesis of key social enterprise and quasi-market studies to extend current debate in this area, which tends to be diffused and complex. By focussing on critical knowledge gaps, the paper contributes a meta-level appraisal of the key areas for future research, providing a focussed agenda for scholars to target their efforts in growing this important body of knowledge.



Mason, C., Roy, M.J. and Carey, G. (2019), "Social enterprises in quasi-markets: exploring the critical knowledge gaps", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 358-375.



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