In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Journal of Small Business Management 57.4 (2019): 1616-1636.
Cited as: Davies, Iain Andrew, Helen Haugh, and Liudmila Chambers. “Barriers to social enterprise growth.” Journal of Small Business Management 57.4 (2019): 1616-1636.


This study investigates barriers to social enterprise growth. The research employs qualitative case study data gathered from young social enterprises to examine the interplay between social enterprise and individual, organizational and institutional barriers to growth. We find that social enterprise barriers to growth are based on values differences, business models, and institutional norms. We theorize three strategic responses to overcome barriers to growth: values‐based decision‐making, leveraging social mission, and anchoring.


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Recommendations from this resource

Social Entrepreneurs

Growth strategies that build on social enterprise distinctive competences in values-based decision making, leveraging social mission, and anchoring, provide avenues for competitive advantage over the long term for all types of social enterprise. Sometimes scaling could provide the pathway to sustainability, and if so, then the projected operational model must be robustly calibrated before undertaking the expansion. Any stretch along the impact dimension must prove itself through successful outcomes for the beneficiaries. The entrepreneur must therefore carefully assess the organization’s potential resources before undertaking any move in the complementary dimension. Remaining focused on delivering the organization’s founding goals is valuable contribution in many cases.

Future Research

Future studies should:
1) Investigate on barriers to growth would be to examine the relative influence of different barriers on commercial, social and environmental performance. Are some barriers greater impediments to growth than others? The development of metrics to quantify social and environmental impact is still very much in its infancy and research that examined how social and environmental impacts are measured, and the relationships between economic, social and environmental impacts, would contribute to further developing our understanding of social enterprise performance.
2) Compare barriers to growth across a wider range of industries and different social enterprise forms would widen our understanding of the contextual determinants of social enterprise performance and growth. Comparisons by organizational form, industry, and country would shed light on the relationships between environment and social enterprise performance and growth. In particular, the unique make up of finance in many non-market oriented social enterprises may provide insight into a range of other strategies for gaining access to finance.
3) Investigate the extent to which the cognitive processes of commercial and social entrepreneurs are in alignment or diverge. Research on strategies for social enterprise partnering would provide key insights into the roles of moral agency and dual mission in network development, and would also provide a key context for understanding the cognitive pillar of social capital.
4) Explores how local anchoring might be harnessed for the collective good across other organizational forms would extend theory and assist in addressing many of today most pressing social and environmental problems.