Community-based social enterprises (CBSEs), a spatially defined subset of social enterprise, are independent, not-for-profit organisations managed by community members and committed to delivering long-term benefits to local people. CBSEs respond to austerity and policy reforms by providing services, jobs and other amenities for residents in deprived communities, thus contributing to neighbourhood regeneration. This paper aims to develop a better understanding of how CBSEs perceive accountability, how they apply it in the management and representation of their business and why.Design/methodology/approachNine case studies of CBSEs across three European countries (England, the Netherlands and Sweden) are analysed, using data from semi-structured interviews with initiators, board members and volunteers in CBSEs.FindingsCBSEs shape accountability and representation in response to the needs of local communities and in the wake of day-to-day challenges and opportunities. Apart from financial reporting, CBSEs apply informal strategies of accountability which are highly embedded in their way of working and contingent upon their limited resources.Originality/valueAlthough research has shown the complex governance position of CBSEs, their application of accountability to target communities and other stakeholders is unclear. The paper coins the term “adaptive accountability,” reflecting a relational, dialectic approach in which formal, costly accountability methods are only applied to legally required forms of accounting, and informal practices are accepted by funding agencies and governments as valid forms of accountability, assessing CBSEs’ societal value in more open terms.
Social Enterprise Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 29, 2020
Keywords: Accountability; Social enterprises; Community enterprises; Self-organization; Neighbourhood regeneration; Hybridity; Active citizenship; Representation