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Article
Publication date: 4 December 2018

Paula Benevene, Eric Kong, Massimiliano Lucchesi and Michela Cortini

The purpose of this paper is to deepen the knowledge on the role played by the intellectual capital (IC) of small and medium non-profit socio-cooperatives (SMSCs) in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to deepen the knowledge on the role played by the intellectual capital (IC) of small and medium non-profit socio-cooperatives (SMSCs) in generating knowledge and organisational growth, as well as on the challenges and the difficulties of the management of IC among these organisations.

Design/methodology/approach

This exploratory study adopted a qualitative methodology. A total of 70 semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior managers of Italian non-profit SMSCs, asking them to talk about the management of their human capital, organisational capital and relational capital. The data gathered from the interviews were analysed through discourse analysis carried out by two independent judges.

Findings

IC management among Italian non-profit SMSCs is unplanned, unsystematic and short-termed. The SMSCs in question adopt an employee-centred approach; their IC management and knowledge creation are more focused on the direct contribution of the organisational members, than on the endorsement of formal or structured procedures and processes. Owing to their social aim, the well-being of both the workers and the beneficiaries of the SMSCs plays a central role in the IC management. Relationships with external stakeholders are regarded as important as those with the internal ones, re-affirming the organisations’ members as the core of the knowledge generation.

Research limitations/implications

The group reached is not a statistically representative sample; furthermore, it is limited to Italy.

Social/implications

Deepening the knowledge on IC among these organisations can help to promote the strengths and address the weaknesses of its management, whilst also helping these micro-enterprises to develop into SMEs.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the IC literature by shedding light on the role played by IC among small and medium enterprise (SMEs), and more specifically in the specific context of Italian SMSCs. To the authors’ knowledge, no previous research has thus far dealt with this issue. Deepening the knowledge on IC among these organisations can help to promote the strengths and address the weaknesses of its management, while also helping these micro-enterprises to develop into SMEs.

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