Ambivalence and ambiguity in social enterprise: narratives about values in reconciling purpose and practices.
Anderson, Alistair R.
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Social enterprises are unusual change organizations; typically their purpose is to bring about change to improve social well-being. Yet they do so in unusual ways. Traditional entrepreneurs generate social value as a by-product of economic value; whereas for social entrepreneurs the reverse is true. This brings about an ambiguity in integrating business and social well being, most manifest in identity and in managing the enterprise. Moreover, the values which drive social enterprise are “different”. Consequently, we examine how values shape practices and how they give direction and purpose to what social enterprises do and how this shapes identity over time. Using the social organisation as the unit of analysis, we collected the narratives about tensions and how these were reconciled. We contribute by improving our understanding of social enterprise by showing how values are worked, used and deployed to give direction in reconciling ambiguity. Moreover, these ambiguities provide a unique identity and purpose for social enterprise.