Utilising a MacIntyrean approach to understand how social enterprise may contribute to wellbeing

Joanne Blake (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Publication date: 22 April 2019



The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the potential fruitfulness of the theory of Alasdair MacIntyre for understanding how social enterprises may facilitate well-being, using empirical evidence from doctoral research to illustrate this.


This paper is based on findings from research conducted at a mental health training and employment organisation which used gardening as rehabilitative tool. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews with staff, volunteers and service users were used to generate the data, a MacIntyrean lens used to analyse the data, and some suggestions are made as to why social enterprises may be particularly suited to such an approach.


Practitioners encouraged the seeking of “internal goods” or “goods of excellence” within practices, as it was this which was understood to facilitate well-being. Service users shared in this view, perceiving their time on the case site primarily as “work” and choosing to engage with the service out of a desire to meaningfully contribute to the community project.

Research limitations/implications

This research is conducted on a small scale and therefore lacks generalisability. The lack of comparison with other organisational forms using the same practice is also a limitation.


This theory offers an alternative lens for considering how social enterprises might contribute to well-being. The data presented here also complement the growing body of research literature on Work Integration Social Enterprises, considering some of the wider well-being benefits beyond work integration, which thus far has received limited empirical attention.



Blake, J. (2019), "Utilising a MacIntyrean approach to understand how social enterprise may contribute to wellbeing", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-12-2018-0079

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