Making sense of the middle ground: shared value in nascent social entrepreneurship

Osorio-Vega, Patricio (2016) Making sense of the middle ground: shared value in nascent social entrepreneurship. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Whilst social entrepreneurship is widely accepted as an issue of critical and contemporary importance, why and how social and economic aspects of value coexist within the phenomenon remain elusive. Current attempts to address this complexity tend to insist on the presumption that social and economic imperatives are distinct concerns that need to be combined, trying to unveil strategies to manage tension in social enterprises (hybridity approach) or piecemeal factors that could satisfactorily explain social (and environmental) orientation in entrepreneurship (sustainability approach). Recent work has highlighted the need to address the possibility of mutually constitutive configurations, where the nexus between social and economic imperatives is not a trade-off but a symbiosis. However, this increasing attention remains largely theoretical. This thesis addresses this gap by empirically examining the construct of shared value creation (SVC) in social entrepreneurship. Through this lens, the nexus between social orientation and economic self-interest becomes a third aspect of value with its own underpinnings.

This thesis focuses on nascent social ventures and responds to increasing calls in both entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship to pay more attention to underlying processes and early stage phenomena. Sensemaking theory is embraced for this task as it provides a recognised process-based guide, and also represents a novel approach to study the noise and hustle of nascency. The resultant SVC-Sensemaking conceptual framework presuppose that nascent social entrepreneurs concerned with SVC enact their value propositions through processes of sensemaking, potentially updating their sense of value every time they face confusing yet relevant circumstances, elaborating plausible responses that are anchored to relevant identities.

As the UK is one of the most developed institutional settings for social entrepreneurship, a longitudinal study of four nascent British social ventures was undertaken. Data was collected through documentation, sporadic participant observation and audiotaped semi-structured interviews over a one-year period, aiming to explore the entrepreneurial process as it unfolds to avoid post hoc bias and to share the sensemaking process as an ongoing accomplishment. The research adopted an embedded multiple-case strategy, studying a series of change events (as sub-cases) in depth. The ongoing analysis generated a number of codes that were later clustered into the three SVC elements of economic self-interest, social orientation, and the mutually constitutive configuration between both. In order to allow for theoretical generalisation, these findings were then examined across cases.

The findings are briefly outlined as follows. SVC’s Frame: founders secure a mutually constitutive stance from the onset by building upon a personal need that relates to a social issue of some sort. The social imperative becomes a means for competitive differentiation. SVC’s community interlocking: founders create social ties for resourcing from scratch, usually through arm’s-length exchanges (e.g., bartering). In addition, effective socialisation (exchanges) sustains their sense of altruism, enhancing social imperatives (e.g., aiming to trigger entrepreneurial behaviour in their communities). SVC’s centralised control: both creation of ties and the search for guidance/inspiration from them will always be filtered by the SVC’s frame, depicting a highly centralised process. SVC’s endurance: whilst the social-economic value configuration emerges mutually constitutive, it will only endure as such if the identity fuelling the mutually constitutive nexus is non-negotiable, such as fulfilling a mother’s duty. If this is not the case, the identity fuelling the social imperative and the identity fuelling the economic imperative can eventually antagonise each other if new circumstances deem one or the other implausible.

The key theoretical contribution of this thesis focuses upon the emergence and endurance of nascent entrepreneurship phenomena with SVC configurations. By illustrating this from a novel lens which emphasises symbiosis in a largely overlooked setting (nascency), through a much needed process-based approach, this work empirically adds to the debates on the middle ground of social entrepreneurship, nascent entrepreneurship and SVC, as well as to sensemaking.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Marlow, Susan
Noke, Hannah
Keywords: Social entrepreneurship, Great Britain, Value
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 32985
Depositing User: Osorio Vega, Patricio
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2017 06:45

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