The social enterprise mark: a critical review of its conceptual dimensions

RIDLEY-DUFF, Rory and SOUTHCOMBE, Cliff (2012). The social enterprise mark: a critical review of its conceptual dimensions. Social Enterprise Journal, 8 (3), 178-200.

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Purpose – The Social Enterprise Mark is claimed to be the first award that guarantees to the public that an organisation is a social enterprise. To date, there has been limited discussion of its conceptual dimensions and legitimacy. This paper makes a contribution to knowledge by critically discussing its conceptual dimensions and exploring its impact.

Prior Work - Attempts by the academic community to define social enterprise have run into linguistic and practical problems. Definitions tend to privilege one group of social enterprises over another. The arrival of the Social Enterprise Mark in the United Kingdom takes place amidst these conceptual and practical difficulties.

Approach – This exploratory study uses feedback from participants on open access co-operative and social enterprise workshops. They were asked to study published SEM criteria then rank ideal types of social enterprise activity (a worker co-operative, a trading charity and a self-employed consultant) in order of likelihood of obtaining the SEM.

Results - Workshop participants from different backgrounds drew the conclusion that SEM criteria favour trading charities and Community Interest Companies with social and environmental objects, not enterprises that deliver social benefits through transforming labour relations and wealth sharing. Participants reacted to their own deliberations differently depending on their sectoral affiliation.

Implications - The SEM criteria contribute to social constructions of social enterprise that favour 'social purpose' enterprises that explicitly target a beneficiary group or community, and not 'socialised' enterprises that transform labour relations, promote participative democracy, and design new wealth sharing arrangements.

Value - The paper suggests there has been a shift away from the co-operative values advanced by the founders of the UK social enterprise movement. To secure legitimacy, the paper proposes changes to the SEM to re-establish the conceptual alignment of social enterprise and the social economy.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: An earlier version of this paper, presented to the 34th ISBE Conference won the Best Research and Knowledge Transfer Paper in Conference.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Business School Research Institute > People, Work and Organisation
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Business School > Department of Management
Identification Number:
Page Range: 178-200
Depositing User: Rory Ridley-Duff
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2012 09:31
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 04:34

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