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Making time for an entrepreneurial cuddle: understanding the value of interpersonal relationships in supporting nascent social entrepreneurs

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Karen ElliottORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a report that has been published in its final definitive form by ESRC; Durham University Business School; Newcastle University Business School; Social Enterprise Acumen, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


We know that social entrepreneurs (SEs) face additional challenges in comparison to profit-focused ventures. Anecdotally, we are told that relationships are key to overcoming such hurdles in an environment where many support agencies and funders rely on transactional approaches to help their social entrepreneurs. This study came out of a desire to understand the value of interpersonal relationships in the social enterprise, start-up context. In order to explore differing perspectives on this journey we collected twenty-four interviews: six from start-up support agencies; six from funding organisations; and twelve from social entrepreneurs. Together, these interviews provided the data and findings for this report. Key findings: Relationships matter:Relational themes were as important as transactional codes in this study, Trust, communication and support were key aspects of relational developmentRelationship development is based on early trust, communication and perceptions of likely performance without which relations will struggle to do well This information allows us to understand the important stages of relationships and therefore to enhance relations and avoiding relationship damage.The local social enterprise context is complex: Social entrepreneurs need to negotiate the intricate start-up environment, with it is complex web of resources to gain support and access fundingThe demands on social entrepreneurs are greater than for profit-focused venturesAs a result, support agencies and funders hunt for entrepreneurs with the “X-Factor” which will enhance the chance of surviving as a business and creating a social impactRelationships appear key to entrepreneurial success and A major element of success will be the amount of time that support agencies and funders can afford to new social entrepreneurs.The wider context is increasingly difficult to navigate:The lack of structural support and funding shortages compound the challenges faced by social entrepreneurs impacting their chances of long-term sustainability All of the above emphasize the importance of supportive relationships that help entrepreneurs deal with the challenges of setting up a new social venture.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilson J, Elliott K

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Unpublished

Series Title:

Year: 2018

Pages: 25

Print publication date: 01/05/2018

Institution: ESRC; Durham University Business School; Newcastle University Business School; Social Enterprise Acumen

Notes: Internally published for a practitioner event funded by ESRC Impact Funds.