The nascent ecology of social enterprise

H. Haugh*, P. Robson, J. Hagedoorn, K. Sugar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Employing population ecology theory, we examine social enterprise population emergence in the UK after 2005 when a new organizational form for social enterprise was established. Our density dependence analysis of nearly seven thousand community interest companies finds that survival is positively influenced by age and population densities of both other social enterprises and commercial organizations. Two specific patterns in population emergence are identified: social enterprise survival is more likely influenced by industry than age, a finding that we label the liability of specificity, and their survival benefits from the population density of commercial organizations but not non-profit organizations, a finding that we label the hybrid-commercial benefit. Our research identifies the liability of specificity as a new concept in population ecology theory and the hybrid-commercial benefit as a contextual influence on social enterprise survival.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1242
Number of pages20
JournalSmall Business Economics
Issue number3
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

JEL classifications

  • l26 - Entrepreneurship
  • i31 - General Welfare
  • m21 - Business Economics


  • Community interest companies
  • Density dependence
  • L26
  • L31
  • M21
  • P31
  • Population ecology
  • Social enterprise
  • Survival

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