Published in: International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
Cited as: Granados, M.L. and Rivera, A.M. (2018), “Assessing the value dimensions of social enterprise networks”, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 734-754.
Purpose: Despite the importance gained by social enterprises (SEs) and the increased number of social enterprise networks (SENs) in the UK, there is a paucity of research into the role of these networks in enhancing the sector and creating value. This paper provides empirical evidence assessing this value. Design/methodology/approach: The assessment and insights were derived through a concurrent mixed method data collection strategy with 241 responses from members of SEs in the UK. Findings: In terms of frequency, the use of SENs is still sporadic, denoting an immature stage of network lifecycle development. Moreover, it was identified that usage was affected primarily by the perceived usefulness of the information available. The ultimate value created was primarily of an informative nature rather than knowledge exchange. Practical implications: A framework is developed describing the structure, content and interaction dimensions of value of SENs. The understanding of this value offers opportunities to shape government interventions and current practices of SENs in assisting SEs and providing an active, knowledge-sharing community.
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To enable the development of a more active knowledge-sharing community of practice through SENs, a technological and cultural change must take place taking into consideration the structure, content, and interaction dimensions of the network. First, SENs need to change their approach from a distributive, one-way system, to a collaborative, two-way system, to affect the way users relate to the network and how the content is generated. Secondly, the technological side of that change implies the implementation of a new type of online platform, which would facilitate that collaborative nature of the exchange. Most significantly, it is the change in the way users will relate to each other in this new scenario that has the power to determine the success or failure of this new approach, providing further opportunities for collaboration and co-production. Thirdly, for a successful outcome, more peer-to-peer activities should be promoted to develop confidence and increase the trust between SENs’ members. Eventually, this will be the only way to foster adequate sociocultural factors that will make possible the creation of a cross-sector knowledge-sharing platform for the SE Sector.
Government promotional efforts, in the form of financial or public policy efforts, can support the development of formal networks and a more solid business support system. They are trying to develop networks to support the growth of SEs with the creation of intermediate agencies, such as, national and regional networks (Ridley-Duff and Bull, 2011). But more support needs to be provided since these networks can facilitate collaboration, which is a key element in the sustainability of SEs.
The implications of the findings and the limitations of the study mean that further case-based studies are now required to discover might cause improved tacit knowledge sharing within the SEN and SEs, as well as the role of SEN in encouraging and facilitative collaboration among SEs. Studies across Europe and the US would also add to these findings.