Exploring the durability of community enterprises: A qualitative comparative analysis

Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
AuthorAstrid Molenveld,Reinout Kleinhans,Ingmar Van Meerkerk
Exploring the durability of community enterprises:
A qualitative comparative analysis
Ingmar Van Meerkerk
| Reinout Kleinhans
| Astrid Molenveld
Department of Public Administration and
Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam,
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Faculty of Architecture and the Built
Environment, Department OTB Research for
the Built Environment, Delft University of
Technology, Delft, South Holland, The
Ingmar Van Meerkerk, Department of Public
Administration and Sociology, Erasmus
University Rotterdam, Burgemeester Oudlaan
50, Rotterdam 3000 DR, The Netherlands.
Email: vanmeerkerk@essb.eur.nl
Despite the growing attention given to community-based initiatives
in the delivery of public services, little is known about their durabil-
ity. This article focuses on Dutch community enterprises (CEs) as
an emerging form of community-based initiatives in urban regener-
ation. Due to their self-organizing and (largely) voluntary character,
CEs face considerable governance challenges to sustain activities
over time. Based on the literature, we examine the interplay of four
key conditions in relation to their durability: social capital, entrepre-
neurial community leadership, supportive relationships with institu-
tional key players and a strong business model. Based on an fsQCA
of 12 cases, the main conclusion is that the presence of social capi-
tal, strong entrepreneurial leadership and a strong business model
is the most important configuration leading to a durable
CE. Government support is not found to be a necessary or suffi-
cient condition, but its absence is part of the explanation of non-
In Northwestern Europe, citizens increasingly organize themselves to deliver public services for their community,
such as the maintenance of public spaces and the provision of community centres (Healey 2015; Edelenbos and Van
Meerkerk 2016; Brandsen et al. 2017). These community-based initiatives can arise from dissatisfaction or com-
plaints about governmental policy and actions or emerge in spaces that governments withdraw from due to budget
cuts (e.g., Gofen 2015; Edelenbos et al. 2018). Community enterprises (CEs) are a particular subset of such initiatives
which are focused on generating income from trading, therefore also conceptualized as collective and community-
based forms of social entrepreneurship (Peredo and Chrisman 2006; Bailey 2012; Montgomery et al. 2012). These
community enterprises are increasingly considered to be valuable agents in social, economic, and environmental
regeneration by policy-makers, since governments have implemented austerity measures and cuts in policy pro-
grammes, alongside longer trends of welfare retrenchment (Haugh 2007; Van Meerkerk et al. 2013; Kleinhans 2017).
Moreover, various campaigns and policy initiatives in Western countries have increasingly been aimed at shifting
responsibilities and engaging civil society in the production of public services (e.g., Brandsen et al. 2017).
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12523
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2018 The Authors. Public Administration published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Public Administration. 2018;96:651667. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/padm 651
Despite this growing emergence and attention to community initiatives in co-producing and self-organizing pub-
lic services, empirical evidence on their performance and durability over time is very scarce (Voorberg et al. 2015;
Edelenbos et al. 2018). According to Brandsen et al. (2017, p. 679), there are still doubts, though, about the scale
and impact of such initiatives. Will [they] develop into a crucial factor in welfare policy and governance?An impor-
tant question is whether citizens are able to self-organize and to produce local services or goods in the long run. Due
to their strong reliance on volunteers and their hybrid naturebalancing social and financial goalscommunity enter-
prises face considerable governance challenges (Peredo and Chrisman 2006; Spear et al. 2009; Bailey 2012). This
article contributes to the literature through theoretically and empirically examining the durability of community
enterprises (CEs) as a form of citizen-organized and generated service delivery (cf. Gofen 2015). We coin the term
durability to analyse the developed capacities, the level of goal realization and legitimacy which influence the conti-
nuity of CEs over time.
This article focuses on CEs in the domain of urban regeneration in the Netherlands, which was, until recently,
characterized by a top-down, national policy framework and hundreds of millions of euros of investment capital. The
abrupt termination of this policy followed shortly after a strongly increased emphasis on active citizenship, paving
the way for community initiatives. In this context and inspired by British experiences, community-based social enter-
prises (in short, community enterprises) have now appeared in many Dutch deprived neighbourhoods in which citi-
zens collaborate to enhance the quality of their neighbourhoods by producing specific public goods or services
(Kleinhans 2017).
The existing body of knowledge (across different fields of research) identifies several important conditions con-
tributing to the durability of CEs. Four often recurring conditions are: access to strong social capital (Somerville and
McElwee 2011; McKeever et al. 2014), entrepreneurial community leadership (Selsky and Smith 1994; Purdue 2001;
Haugh 2007), a supportive relationship with key players in the institutional environment (Van Meerkerk et al. 2013;
Voorberg et al. 2015) and a well-developed business model (Bailey 2012; Kleinhans and Van Ham 2017). However,
previous research has often examined these conditions individually but not in conjunction, thus missing out on their
interrelationships. Therefore, this article aims to examine the interplay and combined impact of these key conditions
in relation to the durability of CEs. Based on a theoretical elaboration of the above-mentioned key conditions, we will
conduct fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to systematically compare 12 Dutch CEs. Compared to
other methods, QCA focuses on configurations (or combinations) of conditions instead of the net effect of single
conditions (Ragin 2000). We can also detect whether some conditions are necessary, and perhaps even sufficient for
durable CEs to emerge. Hence, the main research question addressed in this article is: how does the interplay
between various key conditions affect the durability of CEs in the context of urban regeneration?
In the next section we conceptualize the durability of CEs. This is followed by a literature review of the four key
conditions. Subsequently, we discuss our approach and methods. Section 5 presents the analysis and results, fol-
lowed by conclusions and suggestions for further research in section 6.
Community enterprises (CEs) are often described as a subset of social enterprises (SEs) (Spear et al. 2009). CEs define
their social purpose in relation to a defined population or sub-group living in a spatially defined area (Bailey 2012).
Compared to the broader literature on SEs, the work on CEs is still relatively scarce (cf. Montgomerey et al. 2012).
Based on the work of Pearce (2003), Peredo and Chrisman (2006), Teasdale (2010), Somerville and McElwee (2011),
Bailey (2012) and Bailey et al. (2018), CEs can be defined as businesses which are:
established by people living and/or working in (spatially) defined communities;
independent, not-for-private-profit organizations, which are managed and/or owned by community members;

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