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Small is Beautiful? Evidencing the Social Value of Micro-Providers in Social Care

Baines, S and Bull, Mike and Antcliff, V and Jarvis, M and Martin, L (2018) Small is Beautiful? Evidencing the Social Value of Micro-Providers in Social Care. In: 35th International Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference, 07 November 2012 - 08 November 2012, Dublin. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Objectives This paper is about the characteristics and contribution of (social) entrepreneurs or micro-enterprises with fewer than five workers in the context of changing markets for adult social care. Our objective is to meet some of the challenges of evidencing the social value such ‘micro-providers’ bring. Prior Work Micro-providers do not fit neatly into established categories. They include ‘social businesses’ voluntary groups, and co-operatives as well as micro-businesses of the kinds sometimes dismissed as ‘lifestyle’. Many are run by family carers or people themselves needing care. Theories and frameworks relevant to understanding them therefore span micro-business households and the ethic of care as well as social enterprise/entrepreneurship. In terms of evidencing economic and social impact there are numerous management systems and toolkits but none are scalable for microproviders. Approach This paper reports research funded by an ESRC placement in partnership with Community Catalysts CIC, a social enterprise that champions micro-providers, and assists local authorities to develop the social care market by stimulating enterprise. Community Catalysts are under pressure to evidence the impact of micro-providers. The placement utilised an action research approach intended to build resources that will help Community Catalysts to do so. Results Micro-providers themselves, and Community Catalysts’ local organisers who work with them, generate information through their everyday activities and interactions. Collating and recording it however can be perceived as a burden with unclear benefits. In dialogue with Community Catalysts, we co-created a four-part framework for capturing added value: Sustainable Businesses; Social Participation; Diverse Markets; Local Work Opportunities. This framework supports the collection of information that is meaningful on the front-line and proportionate to the capacity of organisers and providers. Most importantly, it facilitates building local knowledge capable of being deployed to demonstrate impact and social value in a fast changing, competitive environment. Implications Our research supports Community Catalysts in their quest to demonstrate value at a local authority level as well as a national scale. The framework utilises records made as part of everyday practice to inform local authorities tasked with shaping the future of a market economy for social care. Further research is called for in order to explore the potential to adapt it for social and third sector microenterprises outside of the care sector. Value This paper advances understanding of how one kind of small enterprise - the micro-provider of care - can be shown to harness local energy. Social entrepreneurship is a growing field of study and within it there is a small but expanding literature on impact and value, yet no academic research to date has focussed on the micro-provider.

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