Social enterprise mythology: critiquing some assumptions

Reid, Kristen and Griffith, Jon (2006). Social enterprise mythology: critiquing some assumptions. Social Enterprise Journal, 2(1) pp. 1–10.



Purpose – To debate some of the commonly-held assumptions about social enterprises.

Design/methodology/approach – The three main assumptions that are commonly applied to the development and characteristics of social enterprises are discussed, namely: that social enterprise must be a collective or democratic pursuit; that social enterprise is institutionally different from earlier mechanisms designed to usher in a “third way”; and that social enterprise is better than doing nothing. Analyses the development of these three assumptions through the framework offered by DiMaggio and Powell (1983) on institutional isomorphism.

Findings – There are indications that the social enterprises sector would benefit from more co-ops taking an ever-greater market share in an ever-increasing range of industries, but that this should be the outcome of decisions freely made by individual, autonomous organizations that are free to choose social enterprises over other available options. Concludes that the practical danger posed by the wrong kind of isomorphic tendencies is to the potential flourishing of alternative organizational forms, alternative business models, and alternative ways of seeing the economic world.

Originality/value – Clarifies some of the commonly-held views concerning social enterprises.

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