Evidencing the contribution of social enterprise to health and social care: approaches and considerations

Francesca Calò*, Michael J. Roy, Cam Donaldson, Simon Teasdale, Simone Baglioni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: As the provision of public services in many advanced welfare states has increasingly come to be marked by competition, social enterprises have actively been encouraged by governments to become involved in the delivery of public services. While the evaluation of complex public health interventions has arguably become increasingly more sophisticated, this has not been the case where social enterprise is concerned: evaluation of the actual impacts of social enterprises remains significantly underdeveloped by comparison.

Methodology: We assess the potential of three methodological approaches common in the evaluation of complex public health interventions and apply them to the complex realm of community-led social enterprise.

Findings: Only through the involvement of different comparator groups, based on the research questions addressed, would it be possible to disentangle the embedded characteristics of organisations such as social enterprises. Each of the methods adopted in this research is time-consuming and resource intensive and requires the researcher to possess advanced skills. Public officials should recognise the complexity and resource-intensive nature of such evaluation, and resource it accordingly. If the aim of policymakers is to understand the added value of social enterprise organisations, an integrative research approach combining different research methods and design should be implemented to improve generalisability.

Originality: We apply a range of favoured approaches to evaluate ‘complex’ public health interventions include systematic reviews, realist evaluation, and quasi-experimental investigation. However, such evaluation approaches have rarely been applied before in the context of social enterprise.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Dec 2020


  • social enterprise
  • evaluation
  • health and social care
  • evidence-based policy

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