The role of social enterprise in local development

Karl Birkhölzer

EMES Conferences Selected Papers Series, ECSP-T09-17
Thematic line: Innovation, entrepreneurship and social enterprise

This paper aims to explore the dynamic process of co-operative practice and social innovation involved in rural China. We develop a conceptual model that incorporates ideas implied in resource dependency theory and path dependency theory. Through the analysis, we would like to answer the following questions: How can we understand change and social innovation within the co-operative sector in China? How do various actors interplay with each other in shaping this co-operative process?

This paper proceeds as follows: in the next section we begin by outlining the theoretical debates in the literature concerning SHCS in China. We will focus more specifically on the discussion concerning the non-compliance of the SHCS with the international standards of an ideal type of co-operative. After that we present our own analytical framework within which the heterogeneity and complexity of co-operative development can be examined.

This conceptual framework is developed based on historical neo-institutionalism and organisational theory of resource dependency. In section 2 we go on to discuss a path-dependent co-operative development especially the emergence of shareholding co-operatives and their evolution. An empirical observation follows in section 3, in which we then delve into the practice of SHCS through analyzing the most prominent form of it, namely, land-based shareholding co-operatives.

This helps to better examine the interaction between different actors (namely, the innovative promoters and the public authorities) in a standard co-operative sense rather than rural enterprises. Hereafter a final conclusion will be presented in section 4.

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