The purpose of this research is to understand how income generating activities of social enterprises build inclusive social capital. Specifically, I explore the impact of structuring decision, i.e. extent of coverage and degree of participatory implementation, of social enterprises on inclusive social capital. The concept of inclusive social capital, i.e. cross-cutting ties among different socio-economic groups, implies a breakdown of unequal social norms and thus provides a deeper understanding of ‘social’ to assess the social impact of social enterprises. Through this concept, I also bridge the gap between the communitarian and the critical approach to social capital. I argue that while the communitarian approach overemphasizes the social benefits of economic programs, the critical approach struggles to explain the transformative potential of development activities. Contrasting cases where social enterprises were able to build inclusive social capital with cases where these efforts were unsuccessful, I show a transformative understanding of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus and extend the scope of the critical perspective on social capital.
I used qualitative case study method to explore the research objectives. Four social enterprises that were involved in income generating activities were selected from the central province of India. Findings from this research suggest that social enterprises can build inclusive social capital if they implement their programs at village level and create discursive space to address individual as well as collective needs. Furthermore, this research also demonstrates that social enterprises that implement multiple programs to address the heterogeneity of interests, and have a long-term and deeper engagement with the communities are relatively more successful in building inclusive social capital, compare to those social enterprises that focus on scalability and prioritized financial sustainability over social objectives.
Findings from this research make several contributions to the international development and management studies. It provides a conceptual framework to assess the social impact of social enterprises and offers insights in implementing development projects in hierarchical communities. This research supports that the potential of social enterprises in development can only be materialized if income generating activities of social enterprises are supported by the processes, activities, and incentives that are social in nature.