Different ways of dealing with tensions: practices of (re)negotiation in local social economies

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The purpose of this paper is to propose a nuanced understanding of the diverse practices social enterprises engage in to fulfil their commitments of delivering social/environmental goods and/or services while earning income to sustain their activities.

This research paper is based on an empirical investigation which used an ethnographic approach to study the social economy in two distinct city regions in the north of England.

Against a common-sense view of social enterprises being able to balance (with ease) social and economic goals, this paper suggests, based on empirical insights, that such a harmonious rendition tends to neglect the messiness at the heart of such organisations. Heeding ongoing reflections, explanations and negotiations as key ingredients in keeping social enterprises “balanced”, this paper argues that negotiating tensions is a constantly dynamic process.

Using an ethnographic approach, this paper offers insights into the complexities and tensions social enterprises constantly deal with and it shows these tensions must be constantly renegotiated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-314
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Issue number3
Early online date5 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2017


  • social economies
  • economic goals
  • ethnography
  • trade-off
  • social enterprise
  • tensions
  • re-negotiations


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