Ethnographies of social enterprise

Item Type Journal paper

Purpose – As a critical and intimate form of inquiry, ethnography remains close to lived realities and equips scholars with a unique methodological angle on social phenomena. This paper aims to explore the potential gains from an increased use of ethnography in social enterprise studies.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors develop the argument through a set of dualistic themes, namely, the socio-economic dichotomy and the discourse/practice divide as predominant critical lenses through which social enterprise is currently examined, and suggest shifts from visible leaders to invisible collectives and from case study-based monologues to dialogic ethnography.

Findings – Ethnography sheds new light on at least four neglected aspects. Studying social enterprises ethnographically complicates simple reductions to socio-economic tensions, by enriching the set of differences through which practitioners make sense of their work-world. Ethnography provides a tool for unravelling how practitioners engage with discourse(s) of power, thus marking the concrete results of intervention (to some degree at least) as unplannable, and yet effective. Ethnographic examples signal the merits of moving beyond leaders towards more collective representations and in-depth accounts of (self-)development. Reflexive ethnographies demonstrate the heuristic value of accepting the self as an inevitable part of research and exemplify insights won through a thoroughly bodily and emotional commitment to sharing the life world of others.

Originality/value – The present volume collects original ethnographic research of social enterprises. The editorial develops the first consistent account of the merits of studying social enterprises ethnographically.

Authors Mauksch, Stefanie; Dey, Pascal; Rowe, Mike & Teasdale, Simon
Journal or Publication Title Social Enterprise Journal
Language English
Subjects business studies
social sciences
cultural studies
Institute/School IWE - Institute for Business Ethics
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
HSG Profile Area SHSS - Kulturen, Institutionen, Maerkte (KIM)
Refereed Yes
Date 2017
Publisher Emerald
Volume 13
Number 2
Page Range 114-127
Number of Pages 14
ISSN 1750-8614
Publisher DOI 10.1108/SEJ-03-2017-0019
Official URL
Depositing User Dr. Pascal Dey
Date Deposited 19 Sep 2017 06:41
Last Modified 19 Sep 2017 06:41



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Mauksch, Stefanie; Dey, Pascal; Rowe, Mike & Teasdale, Simon (2017) Ethnographies of social enterprise. Social Enterprise Journal, 13 (2). 114-127. ISSN 1750-8614

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