• Heba Chehade

Student thesis: Doctor of Business Administration


Current approaches to the social impact assessment of social enterprises are theoretically deficient, practically challenging and, more significantly, make unqualified assumptions about the direct path of causal attribution of outcomes to activities undertaken. A theory-based approach to evaluation does not make assumptions about causal attribution; instead, it focuses on how and why change occurs by uncovering and evaluating the underlying causal mechanisms, related positive and negative effects, and conditions that will likely lead to long-term outcomes (Weiss, 1997b). Using social enterprises targeting poverty alleviation through income generation, this thesis explores the use of theory-based evaluation as an alternative to current approaches to social impact assessment to better understand and discern the social impact of social enterprises. By first developing a classification of social enterprises targeting poverty alleviation through income generation to help identify causally similar groups (Beach and Pedersen, 2013), this comparative case study uses semi-structured interviews with beneficiaries, leaders and employees (where possible) of three social enterprises to uncover causal mechanisms and related effects. Through within and cross-case analysis of social enterprises that target poverty alleviation through contractual opportunities, the conditions for change were subsequently identified to develop a preliminary change model that uncovers how and why change occurs that would guide the evaluation of social impact and aids comparison. Besides output-related causal mechanisms, the study uncovered a preliminary change model encompassing enablement and psychosocial factors of leadership and support, community and belonging, and recognition, mapping impact pathways to poverty alleviation. Linked to the intended outcome by dimensions of beneficiary participation, intervention and beneficiary retention, these causal mechanisms depict how change, and social impact, is most likely to occur when conditions for change are in place and negative effects related to beneficiaries culture, steep learning curve, and business performance of the social enterprises, are managed. This study makes original contributions both to knowledge and practice that include a replicable classification that can be used as a basis for research and comparison. This study also uncovers a preliminary change model and new view to social impact that is clear and specific to a bounded population enabling assessment and comparison with the ability to predict the likelihood of change. The study details a replicable approach to theory-based evaluation uniquely integrating classification techniques and signalling theory to uncover causal mechanisms and links to the intended outcome. Testing the preliminary change model would enable the eventual development of a middle-range theory of poverty alleviation in social enterprises in addition to building a theoretically grounded instrument for carrying out and comparing the social impact of social enterprises targeting poverty alleviation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKate Barker (Supervisor) & Maria Nedeva (Supervisor)


  • Theory-Based Evaluation
  • Signalling Theory
  • Social Enterprises
  • Social Impact
  • Case Study
  • Classification
  • Poverty Alleviation

Cite this