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  • Author or Editor: Simon Teasdale x
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Author: Simon Teasdale

Drawing on data from an in-depth case study of an embryonic social enterprise, this paper explores how social enterprises can utilise the multiple identities of social enterprise to access start-up funding. The social entrepreneur exhibited multiple organisational faces to external stakeholders in order to acquire resources. However, resource holders were not passive recipients of these managed impressions. Each had a strategic interest in the social enterprise being presented in a particular way and exerted coercive pressure on the social enterprise to conform to these co-constructed impressions. Utilising organisational impression management helped the social enterprise resist these coercive pressures.

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Social enterprise has been portrayed as challenging neoliberalism, and alternatively, as neoliberalism by stealth. Here we conceptualise social enterprise as a microparadigm nested within wider political and economic frameworks. Our analysis of continuity and change over a period of political and economic crisis in England demonstrates considerable evidence of normative change in the ideas underpinning social enterprise policies. However, further analysis reveals that the (neoliberal) cognitive ideas underpinning the social enterprise paradigm remained intact. This suggests that policy paradigms can accommodate normative differences within a shared cognitive framework, and hence, are more fluid, and have greater longevity, than previously recognised.

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The social enterprise literature is dominated by stories of good practice and heroic achievement. Failure has not been widely researched. The limited policy and practice literature presents failure as the flipside of good practice. Explanations for failure are almost wholly individualistic, and related to poor governance. However, organisational studies literature shows that failure cannot be understood without reference to the wider environment within which organisations operate. This article is based on a nine-year in-depth case study of an organisation previously characterised in the policy and practitioner literature as an example of good practice and heroic achievement. We seek to explain its ‘failure’ through studying the interaction between the organisation and its wider environment. We show that simple individualistic explanations are not sufficient by which to understand social enterprise failure and outline the implications for academic understanding of social enterprise.

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Drawing upon existing data sources we explore gender differences in leadership, participation and employment in the third sector and social enterprises. We find that women are underrepresented as leaders of private sector social enterprises, but are more equally represented leading or initiating third sector organisations. Within third sector organisations, more women than men undertake paid work, hold lower managerial and professional positions, and volunteer, but men take up around half of higher status positions. The gender pay gap is narrower in the third sector than in other sectors, and is lowest for those in the highest managerial positions.

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