A comparative overview of social enterprise 'ecosystems' in Scotland and England: an evolutionary perspective

Richard Hazenberg, Meanu Bajwa-Patel, Michael Roy, Micaela Mazzei, Simone Baglioni

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Social enterprise has been identified as a culturally and socially constructed phenomenon that varies in its meaning both internationally and within geographic regions. Over recent years there has been increasing academic focus on how social enterprise ‘ecosystems’ differ across different countries. This focus has been both global (examinations of differences between North American, Asian and European social enterprise) and regional (exploring differences between countries within Europe). There has however, been less focus on the differences in social enterprise ecosystems within countries, where subtle regional differences in the cultural, political and social environment can potentially lead to significant variations in the environment for support. The recent history of the United Kingdom, with devolution for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, has led to all four countries (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England) developing fairly diverse political and policy environments despite sharing relatively similar social and cultural backgrounds. This paper seeks to explore this through the lens of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory posits that within an ecosystem all organisms are a product of the evolution of that ecosystem, and that this evolution is based upon genetics, epigenetics and phenotypes. The research reported in this paper draws upon qualitative data gathered as part of a European Commission FP7 project. Semi-structured interviews explored the perceptions of a variety of key stakeholders in regards to the historical, socio-political, cultural and regulatory environments, at both local authority/city (either not both) and national levels, in Scotland and England. The results are discussed in relation to evolutionary theory and how socio-political and regulatory differences can lead to the rapid divergence of social enterprise ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-222
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Review of Sociology
Issue number2
Early online date12 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jul 2016


  • Social enterprise
  • ecosystems
  • social policy
  • political devolution


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