Seanor, Pam (2011) Social enterprise networks: The everyday unfolding of social enterprise by interpreting & drawing different views. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis examines how social enterprise is constructed in theory and practice. A critical approach is taken to questioning assumptions about complex issues especially the dynamics of networks and those facing uncertain and ambiguous situations. Due to limited empirical evidence, a qualitative approach is adopted to explore how network interactions influence identity, meaning and actions. The research from a 16-month case study was undertaken to understand how social enterprise is made sense of by those in 37 existing social organisations, intermediate support and commissioning agencies in West Yorkshire. An analysis of data collected from in-depth interviews, together with participant observation of network events is used to theorise that issues of identity and interactions between network contacts. It attempts to make explicit some of the identity construction and maintenance processes which take place in local networks.

The thesis contributes to knowledge in that it offers a ‘little’ narrative of social enterprise network interactions in context, presents an unfolding model for framing network processes and uses creative narrative approaches of stories, metaphors and visual methods, not well utilised in the field but borrowing from other fields. The value of these three contributions helps to develop an enhanced understanding of social processes involved in social enterprise actions. Because of its ethnographic and phenomenological approach, it adds to the theoretical narrative and offers rich insights into contemporary network practices. The originality of the study is an unfolding approach and an alternative research perspective with which to better understand the complexity of this diverse field of study. It uses participant drawings, metaphors and paradox to examine how practitioners viewed trust (and distrust), continuity (and discontinuity), success(and lessons learnt from failure). The unfolding nature of the study enables practitioners (and researchers) the ability to structure thinking but allows for flexibility in considering the influences of local context. By focussing upon a local context it contributes grounded data to support discourse in the social context of contemporary practice. It has attempted to foster discussion of social enterprise as a socially constructed phenomenon. This empirical work considers how everyday contemporary practices correspond to (or contrast) theories and models. It offers a pluralistic view and shifts the focus from a unitary perspective of individuals and individual organisations to enable academics, policy makers and organisational participants to consider and interpret different views of changes.

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