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Free Content Whose failure? Learning from the financial collapse of a social enterprise in 'Steeltown'

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The social enterprise literature is dominated by stories of good practice and heroic achievement. Failure has not been widely researched. The limited policy and practice literature presents failure as the flipside of good practice. Explanations for failure are almost wholly individualistic, and related to poor governance. However, organisational studies literature shows that failure cannot be understood without reference to the wider environment within which organisations operate. This article is based on a nine-year in-depth case study of an organisation previously characterised in the policy and practitioner literature as an example of good practice and heroic achievement. We seek to explain its 'failure' through studying the interaction between the organisation and its wider environment. We show that simple individualistic explanations are not sufficient by which to understand social enterprise failure and outline the implications for academic understanding of social enterprise.

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Keywords: FAILURE; SOCIAL ENTERPRISE; THIRD SECTOR

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2012

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  • Voluntary Sector Review publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed, accessible papers on third sector research, policy and practice. It is an invaluable cutting-edge resource for all those researching or working in the fast-growing voluntary, community and wider third sectors.

    The journal covers the full range of issues relevant to voluntary sector studies, including: definitional and theoretical debates; management and organisational development; financial and human resources; philanthropy; volunteering and employment; regulation and charity law; service delivery; civic engagement; industry and sub-sector dimensions; relations with other sectors; social enterprise; evaluation and impact. Voluntary Sector Review covers voluntary sector studies from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, business studies, social anthropology, philosophy and ethics. The journal includes work from the UK and Europe, and beyond, where cross-national comparisons are illuminating. With dedicated expert policy and practice sections, Voluntary Sector Review also provides an essential forum for the exchange of ideas and new thinking.

    Rigorous and stimulating, Voluntary Sector Review is an indispensable tool for everyone who values empirically-grounded, theoretically-informed and policy-relevant reviews of the future direction of the voluntary sector.

    Editors: Nick Acheson (Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland), Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde, UK), Rob Macmillan, (University of Birmingham, UK)

    The journal is published in association with the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and a print copy of the journal is a membership benefit.

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