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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


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Support for social enterprises (SE) has been acknowledged as transactional in nature and fails to provide the nurturing, coaching or mentoring needs espoused by social entrepreneurs (Barki et al., 2015). Social entrepreneurs (SEs) fail to see themselves as part of transactional business environments—specific needs remain unfulfilled by support agencies that are financially or outcome oriented (Nairne et al., 2012). SEs’ needs are complex in nature and operate in an emergent environment (i.e., self-organising complex adaptive system) crucially, “complicated worlds are reducible, whereas complex ones are not” they adapt in unpredictable ways (Byrne, 1998; Miller and Page, 2007: 9). By sharing the processes for strengthening entrepreneur-investor and support relationships (i.e., providing an entrepreneurial ‘cuddle’), nascent social businesses increase their likelihood of successfully achieving their social aims (Gordon and Orozoco, 2015). Adopting a complexity stance for investigating the SEs’ non-linear world, we argue some models and approaches do not allow for nuanced and detailed aspects of relational values required by this sector. We conducted 24 semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders over a nine-month period during 2016/17. Findings suggest that demonstrable trust is vital for investors and support agencies towards SEs from the first point of contact and interaction, as opposed to profit and growth being the foci for development (Renko, 2013). Hence, SEs espouse a ‘cuddle’ approach to their perceived ‘journey’ from ideation to investment readiness stages for progress to occur. In short, interpersonal interaction makes the difference between long-term chances of success and abandonment of investment or support opportunities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilson J, Elliott K

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: SEWF 2018 Academic Symposium

Year of Conference: 2018

Print publication date: 11/09/2018

Online publication date: 20/10/2018

Acceptance date: 18/05/2018