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The FairShares Model: A Communitarian Pluralist Approach to Constituting Social Enterprises?

Ridley-Duff, R and Bull, Mike (2013) The FairShares Model: A Communitarian Pluralist Approach to Constituting Social Enterprises? In: International Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference, 12 November 2013 - 13 November 2013, Cardiff, United Kingdom.

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Abstract

Objectives - This paper is an exploration of the intellectual antecedents and philosophical assumptions that underpin the FairShares Model - a set of brand principles and Articles of Association published by the FairShares Association. It contributes to knowledge of the history of the social enterprise movement and its link to contemporary developments in mutual social enterprises. Prior Work - Previous contributions to the literature on social economy have drawn on communitarian philosophy to develop insights into mutual principles. This paper sets out a theoretical framework to evaluate whether the FairShares Model represents a communitarian pluralist discourse on the constitution of social enterprises. Approach - In January 2013, the FairShares Association published guidance on the FairShares 'brand' and 'model' (drawing on work presented at ISBE) to develop the concept of a ‘socialised’ enterprise . The framework developed from prior work is used to assess which aspects of communitarian philosophy are emphasized in both antecedent model rules (identified by the FairShares Association) as well as the FairShares Model (v1.2a). Results - The FairShares Model is theorised as a predominantly communitarian pluralist discourse with some ‘corporatist’ commitments. It represents an evolving set of guidelines for the ‘socialisation’ of enterprise by devising membership rights for two primary stakeholders (labour, users), and two secondary stakeholders (founders, investors). It is designed to reverse the centralising and accumulating tendencies of the private sector without returning assets to state control. It differs from philanthropic models by offering co-operative (par value) shares to three member classes: founders, labour and users, and (ordinary) ‘investor’ shares to all classes of member. Implications - The FairShares Model contributes to knowledge on the 'socialisation' of enterprise by identifying core characteristics of member-owned enterprises that deploy strategies for multi-stakeholder ownership, governance and management. Value – By operationalising a communitarian pluralist discourse in the process of constituting a social enterprise, the FairShares Model offers an alternative to private sector models based on the subordination of labour and mutual models based on the primacy of a single stakeholder group. Keywords: communitarian philosophy, co-operation, mutuality, social enterprise, social innovation

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