Managing Uncertainty in Small and Micro Social Enterprises: A Cynefin-Bricolage Framework

Managing Uncertainty in Small and Micro Social Enterprises: A Cynefin-Bricolage Framework

Gladius David Kulothungan (Regent's University, UK), Charles Oham (University of Greenwich, UK) and Puspa Jirel (University of the West of Scotland, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6298-6.ch017


Small and micro social enterprises deal with meeting unmet or inadequately met needs of marginalized people and communities by creating values for them. While organizing and focusing their efforts on doing this entrepreneurially, they are constantly buffeted by complexities and uncertainties. Most of these enterprises are initiated and led by committed social activists who become ‘accidental managers.' In their attempts to continue being relevant and committed to their true mission, these social entrepreneurs resort to novel methods through a unique framework called the Cynefin-Bricolage Framework that is essentially an ‘analysis-solution' tool for solving critical problems associated with uncertainties in organizational contexts for small social enterprises. This chapter uses two case studies from Nepal which deploy this framework effectively, setting an example of good practice for other small and micro social enterprises, with significant relevance to the sector as a whole.
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Small and micro social enterprises emerge primarily to offer solutions to some intractable social problems taking on production of goods and services that address needs of socially marginalized groups while reaching out to normal and or niche market segments in the broader economy (Kulothungan, 2010; Hulgard, 2011). The entrepreneurial behavior of these organizations is beset with a unique set of challenges and issues as they focus on producing and generating both social and financial values - in their earnest attempts to transform the lives of their target groups (Oham, 2016). A small social enterprise faces the same issues that any traditional business faces in its growth and operations. But social entrepreneurs also face unique challenges in delivering the social value, social returns or social impact of the enterprise in addition to commercial value (Douglas, 2018).

Key issues faced by small and micro social enterprises are categorised as:

  • Lack of access to funding and working capital;

  • Lack of professional sectoral knowledge and lower inclination towards collaboration due to high levels of personal ownership and commitment by the founder-leaders;

  • Problems associated with stress and burnout;

  • Difficulty accessing supply chains;

  • Low presence of social entrepreneurial organizations in supply chains, both in the business and in the public sectors;

  • The lack of collaboration among sector intermediaries (Collavo, 2017).

More often than not the leadership of these organizations consists of socially committed activists who have little or no training in management and find themselves taking on the role of ‘accidental managers’ (Hockert, 2016; Teasdale, 2012). These ‘accidental managers’ in small social enterprises are no faint hearted ‘one time good Samaritans’ but are determined and focused social actors who have a robust sense of resilience that makes them respond innovatively to the challenges that come their way - as they deal with the complexity and uncertainty they constantly encounter, carrying on their value creation work relentlessly.

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