The nascent ecology of social enterprise

Helen Haugh, Paul Robson, John Hagedoorn, Kate Sugar

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Employing population ecology theory, we examine social enterprise population emergence in the United Kingdom after 2005 when a new organizational form for social enterprise was established. Our density dependence analysis of nearly seven thousand Community Interest Companies finds that survival is positively influenced by age and population densities of both other social enterprises and commercial organizations. Two specific patterns in population emergence are identified: social enterprise survival is more likely influenced by industry than age, a finding that we label the liability of specificity, and their survival benefits from the population density of commercial organizations but not nonprofit organizations, a finding that we label the hybrid-commercial benefit. Our research identifies the liability of specificity as a new concept in population ecology theory and the hybrid-commercial benefit as a contextual influence on social enterprise survival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1242
Number of pages20
JournalSmall Business Economics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • population ecology; density dependence; social enterprise; survival; community interest companies

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