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Social enterprise and social entrepreneurship in practice.

By Adebowale Adeagbo


In my practice experience and exploration of literature, I discovered that there are limited examples and research about organisations that aim to change from a charity to a social enterprise. In addition to this, there are limited knowledge and understanding about what social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are and a lack of frameworks that will enable one to know a social enterprise and social entrepreneur when you see one. This research, therefore, is an exploration of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship in practice, arriving at working definitions and frameworks. It examines the process, experiences and challenges that come with an organisation - Age Concern Bexley - changing from a charity to a social enterprise. The research then shares the experiences and the challenges that come with such organisational change\ud The research also examines and exposes my role and experiences - as the Chief Executive, social entrepreneur, leader and change agent, during this period. The research\ud then provides an insight into the self-discovery, self evaluation and reflections of a social entrepreneur in practice, especially from the insider practitioners' perspective, thereby enabling seeing social enterprise and social entrepreneurship from the lens of a social\ud entrepreneur. This research does not look into the issues surrounding governance during this change; as recent researches concluded that governance have little impact in this context( Young,2006). My view is that governance is importany and relevant; although the experience during this research does highlight that it was not a major issue. However,I would recommend it as an area of and for future research. The research combines empiricism and rationalism with iterations. In the research, I applied methodical pluralism as overarching research methodology by applying a portfolio of methodologies, using different methods to gather necessary data from different sources. The research contributest o practice with the establishment of a social enterprise service at Age Concern Bexley whilst also developing a set of high-level challenges that organisations that aim to explore social enterprise need to be aware of and how to manage them. The research contributes to theory by arriving at a working definition and framework of social enterprise. It also provides a better understanding of social entrepreneurship in practice and the role of a social entrepreneur as a leader and change agent. Other contributions to theory are the employment of metaphors to explain organisational change,the application of socio-psychological theory of labelling to explain the deviancy of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship and argument for sector differentiation, that is, social enterprise as a distinct sector. Some other contributions to practice are the showcasing of social enterprise in practice, the establishment of Bexley Social Enterprise Consortium, the establishment of an international development social enterprise organisation - Hephzibah - and the aim of\ud establishing a social enterprise academy in Nigeria. These are to enable me put into further practice, what I have learnt through this research. The research concludes that the practice of social enterprise is here to stay, that social entrepreneurial organisations need social entrepreneurs in leadership and that it will be challenging for existing charities to convert in totality to social enterprises.\ud 1

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