All you need is love: affective practices of caring as individuals’ mission-driver in social entrepreneurship

Paola Raffaelli, Vicky Nowak

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragKonferensabstractPeer review


Whilst mission-driven or hybrid organisations take various forms, they allshare the challenge of navigating contradictory goals to combine social and commercial benefits to different degrees (Shepherd et al., 2019). Social Enterprises (SEs) are a form of mission-driven organisation that prioritise meeting social needs by bringing goods, services or other benefits to economically or politically excluded members of society—fulfilling a social mission as opposed to the profit motive in commercial ventures (Battilana and Lee, 2014). Compassion and empathy play a central role in the social mission of SE, their goals motivated by an ethic of care rather than financial success (André and Pache, 2016). Recognising that social values need to be embedded through people, SEs seek to recruit workers that share their goals (Akinlade and Shalack, 2017)—in other words share their care ethics. However, an institutional environment that prioritises competitiveness and marketisation can force organizational activity to become dominated by business logics resulting in mission drift (Cornforth, 2014; Ebrahim et al., 2014). Whilst most research focuses on impacts upon service delivery, SEs can pass pressures on to workers, expecting them to work for long hours and low pay, or exploiting goodwill of volunteer workers (Cornelius et al., 2007). This research is primarily concerned with how individuals maintain SE’s social value and caring practices minimising mission drift in a context of increasing marketisation.
Affective practices of caring describe nurturing and interdependent human relationships necessary for living well, framing consciousness through social relations with others within organisations and society (Lynch et al, 2021). They are built upon individuals’ values and are instrumental in SE’s social mission and their value practices (Gehman et al., 2013). These practices are grounded on ‘thick reciprocity’, involving empathetic social relationships motivated by care rather than self-interest (Block, 2008). Care and thick reciprocity protect society against excessive marketisation (Vachhani and Pullen, 2019), as it links people from different backgrounds and interests through their connected struggles as evident in SE responses to inequality and social dislocation (Block 2008). We suggest that an emphasis on thick reciprocity motivated by caring relationships offers scope for understanding how SEs can resist commodification and reconnect with social mission through stakeholder engagement in collective organizational structures. Although our focus is SEs, the construction of affective practices of caring to maintain social mission can contribute to the study of other organizational types.
A processual approach enables examination of how the interplay of shifting contextual dimensions shapes SE goals and values over time (De Bruin and Lewis 2015). Andre and Pache (2016) argue that maintaining an ethic of care is both the goal and process of SE. Defining SE as practicing an ethic of care introduces a holistic view of SE’s social mission, that encompasses the social value created and the organizational activity behind social value creation – addressing service provision and individual employee experiences. Drawing on Fisher and Tronto’s (1990) four phases of care, Andre and Pache (2016) outline how caring activity takes place alongside processes of entrepreneurship in SE: opportunity recognition as ‘caring about’; opportunity filtration as ‘caring for’ (Fisher and Tronto, 1990; André and Pache, 2016); venture creation as ‘care giving’; and reciprocal exchange as ‘care receiving’ (Noddings, 2013). Hence caring, in the form of both caregiving and receiving can be viewed as a reciprocal value and fundamentally relational.
The priorities of SE as mission-driven businesses are dynamic, negotiated through practices (Gehman et al., 2013) that shift as they intersect with the multi-layered contexts in which they are embedded (Nowak and Raffaelli, 2022). In the UK context, the SE sector expanded rapidly during the 1990’s and 2000’s as it became the key delivery agent for social welfare, replacing services traditionally provided by the state (Carmel and Harlock 2008). This was accompanied by pressures to professionalize in competitive social welfare markets that prioritized business efficiencies, causing many SEs to lose track of social responsibilities as they competed for contracts (Davies et al., 2018). This paper presents case studies of two UK SEs whose histories unfold within the context of welfare marketisation that contested their social mission. The cases explore affective caring relationships, highlighting the thick social ties between the organization’s management, service beneficiaries and frontline staff. Whereas extant literature focuses on tensions at the organizational level (Battilana et al., 2017), this framing brings us closer to understanding how caring is practiced in SE but also how it is transformed by institutional forces. We examine how SE operates as a space of resistance, where relationships grounded on solidarity and thick reciprocity emerge to combat commodification and marketisation. Our findings suggest that caring is a force resisting commercial pressures by bringing social values enacted within relationships to the forefront in maintaining a SEs social mission.
StatusAccepted/In press - 2022
Evenemang38th EGOS Colloquium - Vienna, Österrike
Varaktighet: 2022 juli 72022 juli 9
Konferensnummer: 38


Konferens38th EGOS Colloquium
Förkortad titelEGOS Colloquium

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Företagsekonomi


Utforska forskningsämnen för ”All you need is love: affective practices of caring as individuals’ mission-driver in social entrepreneurship”. Tillsammans bildar de ett unikt fingeravtryck.

Citera det här