THE NATURE OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISE IN GREECE:The effect of the social enterprise trend on non-profits in Greece in a shrinkingeconomy

  • Fani Dima

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the notion of social enterprise in Greece. In particular itinvestigates how non-profits incorporate social enterprise in an environmentfacing a severe financial and social crisis. The study is done through aparticipatory and reflective research approach that allows the emergence ofenriched results.The review of the existing literature in this area revealed that despite the lack ofa universal definition, the concept of social enterprise has generally been viewedpositively and has raised the expectations for social and economictransformation. Policy makers expect social enterprises to become a lever out ofthe crisis of reducing state funding and contribute to financial and social change.Until recently, the common assumption was that social enterprises emergebottom-up and constitute the most ethical option of social welfare servicesprovision after the failure of the state and the markets to provide for society.Hence, non-profits were encouraged to adopt entrepreneurial techniques tosupport their social purpose as a way out of the financial problems they arefacing. The great interest on the effect of 'social enterprise' on the traditionalnon-profit sector comes from the peculiarity of the Greek case with the top-downenforcement of the concept coupled with a history of corruption in civil society.Even though researchers following a more critical stance towards socialenterprises challenge the underlying assumptions of this new concept and raiseawareness about its negative impacts, in Greece the 'social economy' and 'socialenterprise' concepts are used as 'silver bullets' by policy makers. Wishing tofollow this critical tradition, I proceeded with an in-depth case study drawing uponparticipant observation and reflective methods. In locating my research in anactive non-profit organisation in Athens, I intended that my findings could beextended to similar organisations.This thesis found that in Greece, the top-down implementation of the conceptallowed non-profits to incidentally adopt this rhetoric in order to ensure their longtermsurvival and then in turn influence the way society makes sense of socialenterprises. The institutional environment further hinders the growth of the sectoras it directs the social enterprises and non-profits towards public procurementmaking and any other alternative seems impossible.Lastly, based on the above findings, I conclude that social economy despite itsinfancy faces the risk of corruption. Hence, I suggest that policy makers' support,rather than guide, social enterprises to allow them achieve their full potential.Future research and practice need to focus on raising awareness for the socialeconomy and assessing social impact as a way to improve transparency andgain the trust of society.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorChristopher Westrup (Supervisor) & Richard Duncombe (Supervisor)


  • social enterprise
  • traditional non-profits
  • Greece
  • participant observation
  • reflexivism

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