Community enterprise characteristics

Key elements

Available tools for the creation of social and community enterprises are useful in supporting the establishment of formal organisation and facilitation of business planning. They aim for extended applicability over different context and lack features that reflect the social embeddedness of the enterprises.

Our empirically informed research work allows drawing out the following six key organisational and contextual characteristics of community enterprises that have been discussed as critical for their success and long-run sustainability:

  • Community entrepreneurship: The community is both the entrepreneur and the enterprise. It draws on the experience of community members in organised civic initiatives while the entrepreneurial process has been driven by a few key individuals from within the community possessing enterprising capabilities.
  • Social structure, social capital and cultural values: Formal organisation and institutionalised governance support the enterprise when it is not embedded in the social structure of the community. Voluntary support as a form of social capital is a key resource facilitating viability. Enterprise objectives correspond to shared values within the community.
  • Local and grass roots initiative: Organisation management and decision-making are local and coming from the community as opposed to external. The business is self-funded rather than using donor funding. The community initiates the enterprise – bottom up and locally instead of through intervention.
  • Multiple objectives: The enterprise pursues multiple objectives – in addition to economic there are social and environmental objectives. They are intertwined and of equal importance as the economic viability of the business ensure achieving non-economic objectives.
  • Problem solving capacity: A community enterprise can provide important benefits and services in terms of improved business opportunities and infrastructure. In broad terms, it contributes to mitigating forms of socio-economic deprivation affecting the people and businesses in the community.
  • Scale: For the success of the enterprise is of significance the size of the participating community, not the community in general. The size of the participating community is important but not a limitation for access to resources and scale of operation. In addition, the enterprise is flexible in terms of community citizens’ participation and does not require strong commitment from all enterprise members.

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