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Networks as Support Structures for Social Enterprises

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One of the key characteristics of social enterprises ‐ businesses which seek not to maximise profits, but to provide a service to society by trading in the market ‐ is the strength of their relational element. The quality of the services they provide derives essentially from the rich interrelationships that their various stakeholders enjoy. An individual involved with a social enterprise is typically not playing a single role, for example as an investor, customer, employee or client, but has an active voice in its direction and how it fulfils its mission. This richness extends to the relationships that social enterprises have with other organisations, such as public authorities or other businesses. They have a propensity to build networks, whether to exchange information, to improve their practice, to dialogue with government, or to address new challenges ‐ for instance by setting up new enterprises. This means that they need external support of a specific type. This chapter discusses a number of good practice cases which provide support to social enterprises. The cases are divided into four clusters: 1. identity / culture / representation / quality; 2. business support; 3. trade sectoral development, and; 4. local development. The chapter closes with a brief review of the main lessons learned as regards good practices. These lessons will be presented in the form of guidelines addressed to those who, through suitable policies, can support the development and consolidation of support structures for social enterprises. 

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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