A Caring Interpretation of Stakeholder Management for the Social Enterprise: Evidence from a Regional Survey of Micro Social Co-Operatives in the Italian Welfare Mix
27 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 1, 2014
The stakeholder literature on the social enterprise is still a nascent and largely under investigated field of knowledge. This literature is characterized by the existence of two persistently divergent theorizings, broadly, the ‘corporate’ and the ‘socio-political’ approach. We assume that the reason of this divergence lies in the absence of proper moral justifications underpinning the notion of stakeholder legitimacy, which results in devaluations and misinterpretations of the normative foundations of stakeholder management. In order to bridge this gap, we propose to conceive of the two theorizings as if they were empirical streams of research of a common normative framework of stakeholder thought. A special focus is given to the feminist theory, and, especially, to the ‘ethics of care’ (Gilligan 1982, Noddings 1984, 1999; Held, 2003), as meaningful moral grounding for advancing descriptions and managerial interpretations of the particular nature and functions of firm stakeholder relationships in social enterprises. To the purpose, we draw from the specialized literature on caring both insights and criteria of an ideal architecture of firm as ‘caring organization’ (Liedtka, 1996), in order to offer an operationally meaningful conceptualization of how social enterprises might simultaneously enhance both the effectiveness and the moral quality of stakeholder management. Then, we test these assumptions on a regional survey of micro social co-operatives in the Italian welfare mix. Findings reveal that the caring for attribute of ‘proximity’ shaping firm stakeholder relationships offers a lot of useful insights to conceive of caring as suitable moral grounding for a common stakeholder theorizing of social enterprise.
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