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Black boxes in the wreckage? Making sense of failure in a third sector social enterprise

Scott, Duncan W (2010) Black boxes in the wreckage? Making sense of failure in a third sector social enterprise. Working Paper. University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.


URL of Published Version: http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=kST4jhqoOH0%3d&tabid=500


This paper examines the experiences of a single social enterprise that grew rapidly but ended in failure. Over more than 8 years, the author conducted intensive field research during the social enterprise’s life and held detailed post-mortems with key players after its death. This material is part of longitudinal research on social enterprise activity in the voluntary and community sectors, (Pharoah, Scott and Fisher, 2004; Russell and Scott, 2007). It is complemented by a review of five studies of social enterprise failure, together with some wider reflections about reporting on various ‘troubles’ (e.g. error, failure and scandal). The primary emphasis is upon problems involved in ‘making sense’, but is illustrated with reference to the experiences of this case study and the limited literature relating to social enterprise failure.

Type of Work:Monograph (Working Paper)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Number of Pages:25
Department:Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC)

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Date:February 2010
Series/Collection Name:TSRC Working Paper Series
Keywords:Social Enterprise; longitudinal research; failure; case study; organisational learning.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Related URLs:
Funders:Economic and Social Science Research Council, Office for Civil Society, Barrow Cadbury Trust
ID Code:794

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