We look at research carried out on the issues affecting non-profits, hybrid organisations and other social enterprises.
Social enterprises: Analysing performance, strategic orientation and mission drift
This study endorses the use of data envelopment analysis, which uses benefit-of-the-doubt weighting to evaluate the social, economic and overall performance of social enterprises. This methodology is especially useful for creating composite indicators based on multiple outputs expressed in different measurement units, and allows for enterprise-specific weighting of the different objectives.
Applying this methodology on a unique longitudinal dataset of Flemish sheltered workshops suggests that social enterprises may face different types of mission drift. Further, the results show that top-performing social enterprises are more economically and socially efficient than low performers. These top performers also have a stronger economic orientation, which sheds new light on the balance between social and economic orientations in social enterprises.
Matthias Staessens, Pieter Jan Kerstens, Johan Bruneel & Laurens Cherchye. 2019. Data Envelopment Analysis and Social Enterprises: Analysing Performance, Strategic Orientation and Mission Drift.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 325–341.
Changing models of social enterprise among nonprofits, 2000–2013
To remain financially viable and continue to accomplish their social missions, nonprofits are increasingly adopting a hybrid organisational form that combines commercial and social welfare logics.
While studies recognise that individual organisations vary in how they incorporate and manage hybridity, variation at the level of the organisational form remains poorly understood. Existing studies tend to treat forms as either hybrid or not, limiting the understanding of the different ways a hybrid form may combine multiple logics and how such combinations evolve over time.
Analyzing 14 years of data from Canadian nonprofits seeking funding for social enterprise activities, the authors identify two novel dimensions along which a hybrid form may vary—the locus of integration and the scope of logics. The authors further find that as the commercial logic became more widespread within the nonprofit sector, variants of the hybrid form shifted from primarily emphasising the commercial logic to more equally emphasising both the commercial and social welfare logics and integrating the two logics in multiple ways.
Drawing on these findings, the authors contribute a multi-dimensional conception of hybrid forms and theorise how form-level variation in hybridity can arise from organisation-level cognitive challenges that actors face when combining seemingly incompatible logics.
The authors then build on this theorising to offer an alternative perspective on commercialisation of the nonprofit sector as a contextually dependent rather than universal trend.
Jean-Baptiste Litrico & Marya L. Besharov. 2019. Unpacking Variation in Hybrid Organizational Forms: Changing Models of Social Enterprise Among Nonprofits, 2000–2013.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 343–360.
Social enterprises, venture philanthropy and the alleviation of income inequality
Building on the literature on hybrid organisations, this manuscript explores the relationship between the organisational activity of social enterprises backed by venture philanthropy investors and income inequality.
Using Ashoka’s portfolio of Indian social enterprises as empirical context of Western venture philanthropy investing activity, the results suggest that (a) Indian municipalities with social enterprises that have received venture philanthropy investments experience a decrease in income inequality level and (b) when these social enterprises are dominated by a collectivistic organisational identity orientation the effect is stronger.
The findings have implications for the research on hybrid organisations, financing of social entrepreneurship and grand ethical challenges.
Francesco Di Lorenzo & Mariarosa Scarlata. 2019. Social Enterprises, Venture Philanthropy and the Alleviation of Income Inequality.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 307–323.
Prosociality in business: A human empowerment framework
This study introduces a human empowerment framework to better understand why some businesses are more socially oriented than others in their policies and activities. Building on Welzel’s theory of emancipation, the authors argue that human empowerment—comprised of four components: action resources, emancipative values, social movement activity, and civic entitlements—enables, motivates, and entitles individuals to pursue social goals for their businesses.
Using a sample of over 15,000 entrepreneurs from 43 countries, the authors report strong empirical evidence for two ecological effects of the framework components on prosociality. The authors find that human empowerment (1) lifts entrepreneurs’ willingness to choose a social orientation for their business, and (2) reinforces the gender effect on prosociality in business activity.
The authors discuss the human empowerment framework’s added value in understanding how modernisation processes fully leverage the potential of social business activities for societies.
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Steven A. Brieger, Siri A. Terjesen, Diana M. Hechavarría & Christian Welzel. 2019. Prosociality in Business: A Human Empowerment Framework.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 361–380.
Managing value tensions in collective social entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship increasingly involves collective, voluntary organising efforts where success depends on generating and sustaining members’ participation. To investigate how such participatory social ventures achieve member engagement in pluralistic institutional settings, the authors conducted a qualitative, inductive study of German Renewable Energy Source Cooperatives (RESCoops).
The findings show how value tensions emerge from differences in RESCoop members’ relative prioritisation of community, environmental, and commercial logics, and how cooperative leaders manage these tensions and sustain member participation through temporal, structural, and collaborative compromise strategies.
The authors unpack the mechanisms by which each strategy enables members to justify organisational decisions that violate their personal value priorities and demonstrate their varying implications for organisational growth. The findings contribute new insights into the challenges of collective social entrepreneurship, the capacity of hybrid organising strategies to mitigate value concessions, and the importance of logic combinability as a key dimension of pluralistic institutional settings.
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Björn C. Mitzinneck & Marya L. Besharov. 2019. Managing Value Tensions in Collective Social Entrepreneurship: The Role of Temporal, Structural, and Collaborative Compromise.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 381–400.
Towards an appreciation of ethics in social enterprise business models
How can a critical analysis of entrepreneurial intention inform an appreciation of ethics in social enterprise business models? In answering this question, the authors consider the ethical commitments that inform entrepreneurial action (inputs) and the hybrid organisations that emerge out of these commitments and actions (outputs).
Ethical theory can be a useful way to reorient the field of social enterprise so that it is more critical of bureaucratic (charitable) and market-driven (business) enterprises connected to neoliberal doctrine. Social enterprise hybrid business models are therefore reframed as outcomes of both ethical and entrepreneurial intentions.
The authors challenge the dominant conceptualisation of social enterprise as a hybrid blend of mission and market (purpose-versus-resource) by reframing hybridity in terms of the moral choice of economic system (redistribution, reciprocity and market) and social value orientation (personal, mutual or public benefit). The authors deconstruct the political foundations of charitable trading activities, co-operative and mutual enterprises and socially responsible businesses by examining the rationalities (formal, social and substantive) and ethical commitments (utilitarian, communitarian, pragmatic) that underpin them.
Whilst conceptual modelling of social enterprise is not new, this paper contributes to knowledge by developing a theory of social enterprise ethics based on the moral/political choices that are made by entrepreneurs (knowingly and unknowingly) when choosing between systems of economic exchange and social value orientation, then expressing it through a legal form.
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Mike Bull & Rory Ridley-Duff. 2019. Towards an Appreciation of Ethics in Social Enterprise Business Models.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(3), 619–634.
Responding to plural values in hybrid organisations
In this paper, the authors derive a four-stage process model of how hybrid organisations respond to specific challenges that arise under conditions of value pluralism and institutional complexity.
Engaging in exploratory qualitative research of six Australian hybrid organisations, the authors identify institutional and organisational responses to pluralism, particularly as organisations strive to uphold multiple value commitments, such as social, environmental and/or financial outcomes. The authors find that by employing a process of separating, negotiating, aggregating, and subjectively assessing the value that is created, the cases demonstrate how they move between logics in a dynamic fashion and address specific challenges of cognitive dissonance, incommensurability, interdependence and aggregation.
The model contributes to the literature by reframing the notion of ‘tensions’ that arise in conditions of hybridity and characterise specific challenges and sequential responses that may go some way to addressing why some hybrids employ particular responses to pluralism and why some succeed.
Erin I. Castellas, Wendy Stubbs & Véronique Ambrosini. 2019. Responding to Value Pluralism in Hybrid Organizations.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(3), 635–650.