María Granados, WBS

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Coming from Colombia, I have witnessed the social and environmental difficulties that currently exist in developing countries and require different approaches from those that current private, public and third sector organisations apply. The concept of Social Enterprises (SEs) presents a sustainable and innovative solution to alleviate these difficulties.

An engineering background and private sector experience in HR and Knowledge Management has helped me to realise that any organisation can maximise its impact by effectively managing its knowledge.

Joining these two concepts has resulted in my research, which explores how Social Enterprises can maximise their social and environmental impact by developing Knowledge Management capabilities. My research is undertaken within the context of UK Social Enterprises and focuses on London, as it is recognised as the world capital of Social Enterprises.

Under the growing pressures of complexity and globalisation, enterprises that effectively capture the knowledge in their organisations and distribute it to their operations, productions and services, have an advantage over their competitors. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence, especially from small businesses and social economy organisations that have organic structures and cultures fostering knowledge capabilities and innovation. In order to fill this gap, this research will identify how Social Enterprises (SEs) can improve performance and achieve their economic, social and environmental objectives by effectively managing their knowledge.

This research has created a theoretical model that explores organisational characteristics and knowledge activities within SEs that can develop Knowledge Management capabilities and improve organisational performance. A sequential, exploratory, mixed-method research design is being undertaken. This started with a quantitative phase that had almost 500 responses from senior members of SEs in UK to a survey about their current activities. This will be followed by a qualitative phase based on interviews and case studies.

So far, the quantitative phase has confirmed the initial hypothesis of this research, showing that Social Enterprise is a different type of organisation from its counterpart in the private, public and third sector. These differences are related to their organisational context and strategic orientation. Additionally, Social Entrepreneurs indicated that, in order to develop Knowledge Management capabilities that improved their performance, their members needed an environment and culture that promoted trust, knowledge sharing and learning under decentralised and flexible structures, more than information systems or extrinsic motivations. Consequently, SEs need to define and apply processes or mechanisms to acquire, convert and apply knowledge embedded in their organisation.

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