Creating space for communities: social enterprise and the bright side of social capital

Sacchetti, Silvia and Campbell, Colin (2014). Creating space for communities: social enterprise and the bright side of social capital. In: IIPPE’s Fifth International Conference in Political Economy, 16-18 Sep 2014, Naples, Italy.



The general aim of this manuscript is to appreciate how social enterprise can create a space of relations and opportunities that impacts beneficially on community welfare and individual wellbeing. We refer to cooperative relations that are aimed at the pursuit of a social goal. In this sense we talk of the bright side of social capital, as opposed to relational networks that are mainly functional to the pursuit of exclusive interests even at the detriment of others. Consistently with the premise, in this work we focus on social enterprise which we define as values-based businesses set up for social and/or environmental purpose, driven by an entrepreneurial spirit.

Specifically we regard social enterprises and their networks of cooperation as the immaterial assets of a community, as reservoirs of pro-social and cooperative attitudes that are able to create connectivity and engender flexible responses to community evolving needs. In other words, social enterprises can be seen as immaterial spaces which support individuals and communities in developing opportunities through activities of various nature as a response to contextual needs. The creation and use of space from this point of view is a reflection of specific values such as cooperation and the public interest.

The study of how social enterprise create space for inclusive relations and opportunities that impacts on community welfare is supported using two illustrative cases, one on arts and one on health. The first connects access to creative spaces with inclusion and community welfare, the other connects community assets to generate social inclusion and to enhance the physical and psychological welfare of NHS patients. The two cases highlight a path for community development building on the nature and assets of social enterprise. The path goes from social enterprise to the creation of inclusive spaces, to the furthering of social inclusion, which ultimately enhances psychological and physical health. Both projects have developed over a medium time span so that we can trace the emerging path of activities and outcomes.

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