Achieving resilience? Understanding social enterprises' strategies to tackle challenges in their delivery of public services
This thesis aims to explore the strategies by which social enterprises (SEs) delivering public services seek to tackle challenges. It also aims to examine which strategies enable SEs to achieve resilience from the challenges. The concept of resilience at the organisational level refers to an organisation’s adaption that enables the organisation to enlarge its capacity to absorb current and future challenges, which ensures long-term solutions for challenges. There has been an expanding stream of literature in the SE field focusing on the challenges arising from SEs’ hybrid organising of social and business missions, and SEs’ management and performance under challenging conditions. This thesis builds on this perspective and draws insights from the organisational resilience literature to address the knowledge gap in SEs’ organisational activities and managerial practices regarding their challenges and the effectiveness of their strategies to tackle challenges. This research employed a qualitative case study methodology. Semi-structured interviews, observations of board meetings and daily operations, and document analysis were conducted in four SEs that provided employability training services in Scotland. The data was analysed through a grounded theory approach. In doing so, this thesis has teased out a range of challenges that were confronted by the SEs in their delivery of public services and the strategies that were adopted by the SEs to tackle them. The thesis makes a theoretical contribution by revealing the complex sources that cause challenges for SEs; highlighting the changing nature of challenges; revealing the different degrees in SEs’ willingness to adapt; and conceptualising organisational resilience and maladaptive processes as two consequences of SEs’ strategies for challenges. The most important contribution is that, by integrating SEs’ challenges, SEs’ strategies and the consequences of strategies, this thesis discovers the contingent nature of SEs’ achievement of organisational resilience. A conceptual framework is developed to explicate the contingencies in which SEs’ strategies lead to the long-term solutions for challenges, i.e. organisational resilience; and three types of maladaptive processes that help SEs to cope with challenges in the short-term. On a practical level, this research highlights the trade-offs between achieving organisational resilience and delivering high-quality public services. It advocates that achieving organisational resilience does not necessarily represent SEs’ ability to deliver high-quality public services. Rather, SEs of different practices complement each other in public services delivery in Scotland.