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

Briefing and working paper series: 31

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.

Research contact
Dr Duncan Scott, Associate Fellow, Third Sector Research Centre