Learning or legitimacy? an exploration of business planning amongst Australian social enterprises

Barraket, Jo, Ling, Sharine, & Furneaux, Craig W. (2011) Learning or legitimacy? an exploration of business planning amongst Australian social enterprises. In De Bruin, Anne & Stangl, Loren (Eds.) Proceedings of the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Conference, NZ Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Centre, Massey University, Albany Campus - New Zealand.

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In recent years, the value of business planning for new business ventures and small firms has been the subject of debate amongst entrepreneurship researchers (Brinckmann et al 2010: 24). Drawing on institutional theory, a number of writers suggest that business planning is primarily used to confer symbolic legitimacy on businesses seeking investment and engagement from external stakeholders ( Karlsson & Honig 2009; Zimmerman & Zeitz 2002; Delmar & Shane 2004). In this sense, business planning may not have any significant effects on firm learning, but may be used as evidence of good business operations in order to attract external resources. Meta-evaluation of the available empirical literature contests this proposition, finding that both the symbolic and organisational learning effects of business planning influence small firm performance (Brinckmann et al 2010: 36)

While social enterprise – which we define as organisations that exist for a public or community benefit and trade to fulfill their mission - the study of social enterprise is a nascent and pre-paradigmatic area of inquiry (Nicholls 2010). As a consequence, there has been relatively little empirical analysis of the nature or effects of business planning amongst social enterprises (for two exceptions, see exploratory studies by Hynes 2009 and Bull & Crompton 2006).

In this paper, we examine business planning practices amongst Australian social enterprises. Drawing on a survey of 365 social enterprises conducted in 2010 and in-depth interviews with 11 social entrepreneurs and managers from eight social enterprises, we find that social enterprises report being more actively engaged in business planning activities than their mainstream business counterparts. Our exploratory research suggests that both legitimacy and learning drive business planning amongst social enterprises, although legitimacy is the stronger driver. Our results also suggest that, as multi-stakeholder businesses led by mission, business planning can serve unique communicative and relational functions for this business type.

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ID Code: 48105
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: social enterprise, business planning, social entrepreneurship
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > ACCOUNTING AUDITING AND ACCOUNTABILITY (150100)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 please consult the authors
Deposited On: 18 Jan 2012 00:19
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2017 14:42

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