The generation and re-generation of social capital and enterprises in multi-stakeholders social cooperative enterprises: a system dynamic approach

  • Claudio Travaglini University of Bologna; Department of Management
Keywords: social cooperatives, social capital, multi-stakeholder, system dynamic, social entrepreneurship


Theories on social capital and on social entrepreneurship have mainly highlighted the attitude of social capital to generate enterprises and to foster good relations between third sector organizations and the public sector. This paper considers the social capital in a specific third sector enterprise; here, multi-stakeholder social cooperatives are seen, at the same time, as social capital results, creators and incubators. In the particular enterprises that identify themselves as community social enterprises, social capital, both as organizational and relational capital, is fundamental: SCEs arise from but also produce and disseminate social capital. This paper aims to improve the building of relational social capital and the refining of helpful relations drawn from other arenas, where they were created and from where they are sometimes transferred to other realities, where their role is carried on further (often working in non-profit, horizontally and vertically arranged groups, where they share resources and relations). To represent this perspective, we use a qualitative system dynamic approach in which social capital is measured using proxies. Cooperation of volunteers, customers, community leaders and third sector local organizations is fundamental to establish trust relations between public local authorities and cooperatives. These relations help the latter to maintain long-term contracts with local authorities as providers of social services and enable them to add innovation to their services, by developing experiences and management models and maintaining an interchange with civil servants regarding these matters. The long-term relations and the organizational relations linking SCEs and public organizations help to create and to renovate social capital. Thus, multi-stakeholder cooperatives originated via social capital developed in third sector organizations produce new social capital within the cooperatives themselves and between different cooperatives (entrepreneurial components of the third sector) and the public sector. In their entrepreneurial life, cooperatives have to contrast the "working drift," as a result of which only workers remain as members of the cooperative, while other stakeholders leave the organization. Those who are not workers in the cooperative are (stake)holders with "weak ties," who are nevertheless fundamental in making a worker's cooperative an authentic social multi-stakeholders cooperative. To maintain multi-stakeholder governance and the relations with third sector and civil society, social cooperatives have to reinforce participation and dialogue with civil society through ongoing efforts to include people that provide social proposals. We try to represent these processes in a system dynamic model applied to local cooperatives, measuring the social capital created by the social cooperative through proxies, such as number of volunteers and strong cooperation with public institutions. Using a reverse-engineering approach, we can individuate the determinants of the creation of social capital and thereby give support to governance that creates social capital.


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How to Cite
Travaglini, C. (2012). The generation and re-generation of social capital and enterprises in multi-stakeholders social cooperative enterprises: a system dynamic approach. RAUSP MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, 47(3), 436-445.
Social Entrepreneurship