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Frontline Social Enterprise

Doing social enterprise on the frontline

PhD researcher's name: Janice Metcalfe

University/Supervisors: Durham (Sarah Atkinson)

Partner organisation: Acumen Community Enterprise Development Trust

Impact highlights: Presentations at seminars and academic conferences; influence of partner organisation's decision making; development of personal skills and research expertise

Various publicly funded programmes and initiatives exist that are intended to improve the health and wellbeing of workless people and to help them to reintegrate to the workplace. Some of these programmes are delivered by the public sector, however, under Welfare to Work reforms others are increasingly being contracted out to both the private and the voluntary sector. In particular, social enterprises are increasingly being used to provide welfare to work interventions, general training and educational programmes, as well as psychological support to workless people. Yet, little attention has been given to understand how social enterprises construct the interface where policy is translated into practice and indeed it is not clear as to whether social enterprises offer a different more caring approach. This PhD Case Studentship contributes towards addressing this gap. Specifically, through the use of ethnographic techniques, this thesis examines the day-to-day activities of an organisation in order to conceptualise how 'care' is performatively enacted on the front line.

Benefits of PhD Studentship

  • Janice has built a very good relationship with the partner organisations which has allowed her to gain first-hand knowledge on issues relating Acumen's daily management and operation. She was able to spend time at several programme sites before selecting one to work with in-depth through ethnographic methods including participant observation and interviews
  • As a result of the good relationship developed between the partner organisation and the student, Janice was able to provide support to the selected programme through hand-on inputs to both recruitment of participants, training activities and support in related skills.
  • She has compiled an excellent data-set which she is in the process of analysing and writing-up through a lens of caring practices.
  • Janice has presented aspects of her work at several conferences on social enterprise:
    - Social Enterprise Capacity Building Cluster, PhD students Summer School, Durham University (2011)

The supervisors also benefitted from this CASE Studentship:

  • Janice has built a strong relationship for the supervisors with the CASE partner which holds potential for further and future collaborations.
  • The empirical material and Janice's ability to conceptualise the implications for theorising care in discussion with the supervisors will produce future high quality academic publications. Progress on these has been stalled currently due to poor health and a break from the process of writing up.

The partner organisation also benefitted from this CASE studentship:

  • Janice provided hands-on support to various processes during her 'participant-observation' with the organisation. She helped directly with inputs to recruitment of participants, training activities and support in related skills which helped to improve practices and services. 
  • Janice and one of the supervisors held a feedback meeting with the executive director of Acumen on the implications of the research for the organisation. Janice prepared an informal briefing note on ways of working and issues arising for the organisation that was well received.

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