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Project report

Bull, Mike and Crompton, Helen (2006) Project report. UNSPECIFIED. Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Organisational effectiveness is based on the ability to define and produce desired outcomes. As with many small businesses, the managers of social enterprises need to be skilled in more than one management function to make their organisations effective. According to EUROPA (www.europa.eu.int), the provision of training to build the skills of social enterprise managers ‘remains fragmented and there are few accepted standards… There is therefore a need for better-targeted and widely available training in social enterprise management’. This project began with the title ‘Benchmarking in Social Enterprises’. As empirical evidence on which to develop benchmarking in the area of Social Enterprise was lacking the project began with research to identify business and management issues. This led to the development of an analysis tool that would offer managers action steps to develop their enterprises. This tool became known as ‘Balance’. The main purpose of the project was to undertake skills analyses of SMEs in the Social Enterprise sector. These aims were to identify higher level management and organisational development/skill needs in order to support strategies for lifelong learning that take into consideration the nuances of Social Enterprises. The project focuses particularly on understanding learning that occurs through experiential routes and via networks that is grounded in the day-to-day activities of the enterprise. As it is known that small business owners prefer to learn as informally as possible, this was believed to be the most appropriate vehicle for delivering skills development within Social Enterprises. ‘There is a wealth of relatively easily accessible data for scholars conducting research into traditional business and management issues. Additionally, there are a significant number of well-respected journals for each discipline, most of which have not historically published much related to the social sector. Good social sector data is more difficult to find, and the outlets for publishing are limited’. www.fuqua.duke.edu/centers/case/faculty/research.html Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship. This report provides a context to the project by summarising the small amount of literature that relates to Social Enterprises in their many forms (Part 1). This includes a discussion of what can be defined as a ‘Social Enterprise’. Background research was undertaken to ensure that the project was based on a clear understanding and analysis of the needs of Social Enterprises and that its methodology (Part 2) and content reflected those needs. The project began with gathering empirical evidence, fifteen qualitative interviews with key Social Enterprise support agencies and Social Enterprises within Greater Manchester. The resulting data were integrated into a ‘loose’ 65 framework, based on Kaplan & Norton’s balanced scorecard (BSC) using qualitative causal mapping software (Decision Explorer & NVivo). An indepth analysis of the findings (Part 3), from the interviews was conducted which identified key issues (concepts). The findings formed the basis for the development of ‘Balance’ – a Social Enterprise business performance analysis tool (Part 4). The ‘Balance’ tool was then piloted with 30 social enterprises, the findings are discussed in Part 5. The principle outcome is to highlight to Social Enterprises the opportunities for learning through their day-to-day activities. The outcomes, since they are directly related to the context within which the organisations work, will be directly appropriate to and of benefit to the target group. Our findings from the ‘Balance’ business performance analysis tool reveal social enterprises have similar organisational issues to that of other small businesses. However, social enterprises we found, were more advanced and strategic. As expected, participative cultures existed and enterprises were strongly mission focused. Many social enterprises however, were slow to develop marketing strategies, evidence suggests needs based focus, as opposed to developing brand and differentiation strategies. Social enterprises were reactive to stakeholder needs, rather than proactively marketing their social values or demonstrating their organisational effectiveness through quality marks, such as PQASSO. In conclusion, the balance concept was well recieved and evidenced through the findings where all 30 pilot organisations demonstrated clear balance across the issues of multi-bottom line, stakeholder perspective, learning and growth, internal activities and visioning.

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