The contradictory faces of social enterprise: impression management as (social) entrepreneurial behaviour

Briefing and working paper series: 23

This paper demonstrates that social enterprises can exhibit multiple faces to different stakeholders in order to access resources.

The research involved a longitudinal case study of a group of Kurdish refugees and asylum seekers producing a theatrical play based upon their collective experiences. Participant observation enabled a deeper understanding of the phenomena under investigation. The approach to analysis was inductive, drawing out themes for further investigation. This paper focuses upon one particular theme: the role of organisational impression management in resource acquisition.

Key findings show that the social enterprise is seen and presented in different ways by different internal stakeholders. Social enterprises can use organisational impression management to demonstrate multiple faces to different resource holders in order to acquire resources. However, the resource holders are not passive recipients of impression management. Each has a strategic interest in the social enterprise being presented in a particular way; the social enterprise needs to be seen to conform to these impressions.

Dr Simon Teasdale