Purpose: This paper examines social enterprise sustainability by comparing recent international research with prior findings seeking to identify the important factors that facilitate social enterprise development. Design/methodology/approach: The research used a concurrent, convergent mixed methods approach on a sample of 93 social enterprise leaders using surveys and face-to-face interviews. The participants were sourced from a cross-section of social enterprise organisational types from urban and regional locations in Australia and Scotland. Findings: The findings support prior research, identifying resourcing, organisational capabilities, collaborative networks and legitimacy as influential in the success of social enterprises. However, the research contributes new knowledge by revealing an overarching growth orientation as the dominant factor in the strategic management for sustainability of these ventures. This growth orientation is generally associated with the intent to achieve profitability. Thus, social enterprise managers view a commercially focused growth orientation as an overarching strategic factor that underpins organisational sustainability. Originality/value: The paper delivers new insights into the strategic orientation of social ventures of benefit to policy makers and practitioners alike. The findings are significant for policy makers providing perspectives into how governmental assistance can be targeted to develop sustainable social enterprises, particularly the need to support the growth of these ventures. Similarly practitioners are alerted to the strategic imperatives of incorporating a commercially focused growth orientation and the latent potential that exists in the networks of social enterprise.
Social Enterprise Journal / Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.42-60