Managerial organizing practices and legitimacy seeking in social enterprises

David Sarpong, Clayton Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore how social enterprises as an emerging organizational form in market economies acquire legitimacy to attract the support of their constituents and stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach: Employing a qualitative case study of ten UK-based social enterprises, data for the empirical inquiry was collected using semi-structured interviews and documentary evidence (e.g. Internet web pages, newsletters, and marketing materials).
Findings: We found cross sector partnerships, community engagement and capability building and, compassionate enterprise narratives as quintessentially embedded managerial initiatives and practices which give form to the legitimating activities of social enterprises.
Practical implications: Proactive investment in the practices identified could help social enterprises to shore up their legitimacy to garner more societal support. In particular, they can draw on their partnership ties to locate, and recruit benevolent co-optees, strategically manipulate their community engagement activities to avoid goal displacement, and employ their compassionate enterprise narratives as an external communication tool to highlight their social objectives to their audiences.
Originality/value;The study highlights relevant organizing practices and activities that social enterprises employ to build legitimacy to attract the necessary support, relationships, and investments they require to function and grow.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2014


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