The bright side of social economy sector’s projectification: a study of successful social enterprises

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Beata Jalocha
Ewa Bogacz-Wojtanowska


In Europe, we are witnessing a growth in the social economy sector, i.e. in socio – economic organizations, which belong neither to the traditional for profit sector (market economy) nor to the public sector (government) (Deforuny, 2001; Young, 2007) - they rather act at the interface of civil society and markets (Jäger, 2010). The main goal of these organizations, called social enterprises or social business, is doing business for socially useful purposes. These initiatives may take the form of traditional Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), like foundations and associations, as well as new kinds of organizations for example social cooperatives, partnerships, funds.

Social economy is situated between public and business sphere of administration and combines both, social objectives and the ones profit-oriented. Social entrepreneurship is unquestionably a desirable feature of social economy understood as reaching planned economic objectives with the use of available resources. Another feature comprises in using involvement and creativity of excluded persons and thus, solving social problems, among others, structural unemployment and disadvantage of social minorities as well as strengthening democratic processes, bottom-up social initiatives etc. Achieving objectives, both social and economic, requires using modern management instruments and methods.

All of the above mentioned organizations or ventures, which achieve their local, social or ethical mission and goals using methods adopted from the business sector (Defourny, Hulgard, Pestoff, eds.2014). One of these methods is project management. The whole sector of social economy, both in Poland and in Europe, is strongly influenced by projectification process: a lot of the activities are performed in the form of projects. For last ten years projectification of social non-governmental sector as well as the economy sector in Poland was reinforced by EU’s funding stream – hundreds of co-funded projects, which aimed at increasing the level of development and improving the condition of social economy, were implemented. Some of these projects have resulted in the creation of durable, dynamically operating social enterprises, and some of them did not produce any long-term results. In case of successful projects, we can observe an unusual effect of projectification process: the creation of permanent structures, sustainable social economy organizations through the implementation of projects.

Although we can identify examples of interesting research on impact of project work on NGOs (Brière, Proulx, Navaro, & Laporte, 2015); Golini, Kalchschmidt, Landoni, 2015) or critical success factors of non-governmental projects (Khang & Moe, 2008), there is a research gap which we would like to address in this paper: lack of research on project management best practices in social enterprises. Thus, the main research question we would like to investigate in the paper is: What are the factors that lead to creation of durable, permanent social economy enterprises from projects?

This paper draws on set of qualitative data from broader research on social economy sector conducted in Poland in years 2011-2013 by researchers from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). For the purpose of this paper we have conducted multiple case study analysis and analysed 36 case studies of existing social enterprises. One of our research goals was to find out, which factors are critical in the process of creation durable social enterprises from projects. Also, we wanted to understand how projectification, influenced strongly by the EU policies, changes the landscape of social enterprises in Poland and helps them achieve success.

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Research Article (Double blind review)