Social Enterprise Research Methodology

Social Enterprise Research Methodology

Social Enterprise Research Methodology


This chapter explores into detail how research for the study was conducted. It looks at the research methodology used while conducting the research. The chapter will be organised into the following sections: the research design, research approach, sampling, data collection, data analysis, study limitations and conclusion. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the roles, responsibilities and challenges facing social enterprises in Scotland. The researcher also investigates the impact of the environment on the performance of the social enterprises as well as other funding aspects of these enterprises.

Due to the availability of limited information on social enterprises in Scotland, a research design has been implemented that would allow comprehensive data gathering. In the end a combination of both confirmatory and exploratory research design was chosen. When little information about a particular topic is available, exploratory research is more appropriate. As noted by Cooper and Schindler (2003) the aim of exploratory research is to gain information about the research topic before engaging in extensive research. In this type of research, the researcher starts by gathering more information concerning the research topic and relates it to the chosen topic and objectives. An indistinct impression of the topic to study is relevant at this stage (Cooper & Schindler, 2003). This type of research is useful when the topic of study yields vague questions and in circumstances where available theory cannot be used to formulate predictions on research outcome. An exploratory study is used to create a better understanding of the topic (Stebbins, 2001). Exploratory research design aims at creating clarity and a better understanding of the research topic. It is a means of asking relevant questions concerning the topic being studied and assessing phenomena in a new way. Using exploratory research, literature concerning the research topic was evaluated and analysed in order to create a better understanding concerning social enterprises in Scotland. However, not so much information about social enterprises was found as compared to business enterprises. Nonetheless, exploratory research provided a basis to the research on social enterprises in the Scotland

In order to confirm the literature findings, confirmatory research was done. This research design was aimed at confirming the research problem and objectives. While conducting the literature review, the study showed that social enterprises had various roles and responsibilities that were driven by their main objectives. The literature review also showed that most social enterprises were faced with various challenges amongst them financial problems, paper work and legal problems. The environment in which they operated also affected these social enterprises. These hypotheses were formulated in the literature review and the confirmatory research was deemed necessary to ascertain the questions. Confirmatory research is essential in making the results more meaningful and statistically significant; makes the results more significant by avoiding false reporting by accurately representing research findings (Gerring, 2001). Here there will be use of face-to-face interviews as a means of confirming the research problem gained during the literature review process. Though confirmatory research is more time consuming and requires more resources, it will be used for this study since there is need to have a firm and effective research and study that is based on confirmed data and information.

—Shorten the above part


This study will carry out a primary research that analyses data using qualitative analysis. Primary research involves the investigation of data and information through seeking answers to specific questions by collecting evidence of findings that were not determined before. The answers provided through primary analysis can be used beyond the instantaneous confines of the research(Bryman&Bell, 2007). Unlike secondary research,primary research is based on a personal confrontation with the respondents and is therefore more reliable in getting a holistic overview. The personal confrontation with the respondents also helps the researcher to be able to analyse the motivations and insights of the respondents. The analysis is also less expensive compared to the quantitative analysis as it deals with small target groups (Jankowicz, 2005).

Primary research also gives the researcher an opportunity to interact with the respondents and a chance to get more information than in the case of quantitative analysis unlike the quantitative. During interview, a researcher may ask an additional question which could not have been asked in the case of secondary research (Bryman&bell, 2007). Throughout the data collecting process, the researcher got the opportunity to typically record his thoughts and impressions on the emerging data patterns. With secondary data collection, the researcher would not have gained the necessary insight to understand the underlying issues that affect social enterprises.

Qualitative research commences with the specific and flows toward the general. The data collection here is very personal; field based, and goes circularly(Bryman&Bell, 2007). The data will be collected and organized during the analysis from where the evident patterns will be analysed – this would also help the researcher to pursue different questions or concepts.Qualitative research also describes events, people and other phenomenon scientifically without using numerical data. This type research is mostly involved in reviewing literature for past information and research concerning a particular topic or research. In the literature review section, information is gained concerning the availability, funding, challenges and roles of social enterprises as well as the effect of the environment on the functioning of social enterprises. This is part of qualitative analysis using books, articles and other academically fit materials as a source of information (Creswell, 2003). This kind of research fits in to the qualitative research approach. Babbie (2011) notes that the results of the qualitative analysis data dependentirely on the quality of study done by the researcher.

This study employs qualitative analysis also because it is more flexible than quantitative analysis as it allows for better impulsiveness and adaptation in interaction with the respondents. For example, by asking open ended questions, the respondents are not restricted in the way they give their answers. This gives room for more than the expected answer. Finally, quantitative analysis wouldn’t have been practical for my case due to the fact that there is a missing platform of social media enterprises in the UK and Scotland which implies that I would have had a small sample to interview; study prone to bias and easy to skew.


The researcher employs snowballing sampling technique. It is also referred to as the chain referral sampling. It is part of the broader purposive sampling where the respondents are set earlier using specific criteria. The researcher chose to use the snowballing sampling since the lecturer had the knowledge about the method and was in a better position to advise the researcher on the firms to study.For this case, the sample was to be taken from social amenities inScotland. In snow balling, samples are acquired through referrals. For this study, the interview was carried out on four Social enterprises based in Edinburgh (Icestore, Joharideisgns, Cyrenians trust (Cyrenians farm), and Dunedin Canmare group). The contacts of Icestore and Johari Designs were retrieved from the university lecturer. After contacting several Edinburgh based Social Enterprises, their contacts information were retrieved from the Edinburg Social Enterprise Directory, theCyrenians trust and DunedinCanmare group answered and an interview was arranged.


Face to face interviews were chosen as the mode of data collection for this study. As Collis asserts, the basis for carrying out interview is because interview is useful in various ways.

Purposes of interviewing according to Collis (2003) are to investigate matters pertaining in an exhaustive manner, discover people’s notions about a certain topic and why they hold some opinions, investigate human dimensions to impersonal raw facts and increase the depth of understanding of certain data and concepts.

The main advantages of interviews are:

They are very much important when obtaining information about personal feelings, perceptions and once opinion over a given issue

It would offer a chance for more detailed questions to be asked.

High response rate compared to other forms of primary data collection

some ambiguities will get clarifications and briefed answers followed up for completion

interviewees always tend to be independent (Cooper and Schindler, 2003)

The main disadvantages of interviews are:

sometime they may prove to be time consuming: interviewing, feedback, transcribing, analysing and even reporting

at a time they are expensive to carry out

different interviewers can understand and transcribe the interviews in different ways sometimes(Collins, 2003).

The researcher prepared five broad open ended questions that were to be the basis of interviews with the four firms. Questions were constructed with the aim of getting more information concerning the social enterprises. Open ended questions in data collection allows for exact response as respondents use their own words to express their views. They also help to explore things for which the researcher doesn’t yet have a hypothesis or theory. The open ended questions also provide more ‘depth‘ in the data collected as they allow the respondents to say as much as possible and to explain themselves clearly. On the other hand closed ended questions allow for uniformity in the responses, straight forward responses and facilitate easier data analysis since the answers could be coded.

The first question was focused on establishing what the social enterprises were, their roles, their beneficiaries, the area of operation and their vision. This question was designed to establish whether indeed the firms chosen were social enterprises. The second question is not specific and is focused on establishing the challenges faced by the social enterprises bearing in mind the different scopes of operation of such enterprises. This was crucial to the objectives of the research since challenges facing social enterprises were part of the research objectives. In this, poorly constructed questions could have resulted to failure to achieve the main objectives. The third question was focused on establishing whether the firms had funding problems and how have the problems hindered their growth. The fourth question evaluated the satisfaction of the social enterprise with the funding, it received. The question was broad as it sought to evaluate all the different funding aspects of the social enterprise. The fifth question was also important to the study as it sought to evaluate the effects of environment on the performance of the social enterprises. All the questions were designed to effectively address the objectives of the research. The questions are attached in the appendices section of this dissertation


Once the interviews had been completed, information from these interviews was replayed and transcribed. This was to enable the researcher to have this information in a form that was easy to analyse. Once the information had been transcribed the individual answers were assessed and general categories for the answers created. This was done by generalising the different opinions of the respondents and trying to put this into broad categories qualitatively. The data was then presented in charts or tables for easy understanding and interpretation so that relationships and trends would be identified.

Q1 Tell me about your business

For the Organisation A, it was found out that the ICE store has two strands. One of them is the Scottish Creative Talent whereby the fashion makers doing crafts have few market places commonly known as maker’s markets. This is because the products are not many at a go. For instance one might only have some few necklaces at a go. The ICE stores also offer support to young people in need of employment. They offer chances for merchandising products, stock room work and those to deal with the customers. They offer work experience to the young people as they provide structured training courses such as product development, how companies and employers target customers, branding among others.

The problem with the business is that it is not situated near a tourism location. For instance, if it was near the Princess Street, the Royal Mile or even George Street, the business could be better as many tourists would want to buy the products. This is because the tourists like the Scottish work very much. The people in the Royal Mile are not the Scottish makers, there are just people with money hunger. The main reason for entering this business is not just money. Culture is important and when the makers have their products not selling, they will stop and everything is forgotten. The tourists will then have nothing to see.

The most important thing is to have a better profile. This will be obtained when the products have a market. Many people do not know about the products hence the challenge of marketing. These posses a great challenge as it requires funds to send the message to many people.

Data obtained from Organisation B a social enterprise called Johari Designs. It is a charity foundation that aims at assisting children with both basic and social needs. It also caters for their education. Johari deals with the production of jewellery, clothing and accessories which are sold all over the world through websites, retail outlets and also in various events. The funds obtained from the sales are used in the Johari foundation.

Cyrenian Farm is a social enterprise that started like a community based project aimed at helping homeless people in living a better life and also gain land benefits. In the farm, there is taking care of animals, growing plants among other activities. The community is comprised of volunteers and students who live with other homeless people. The benefitiaries are those people who live in the farm.

The research shows that Dunedin Canmare group is a low income earning group whose main objective is to provide housing facilities. It has a development plan of five years which analyses the work to be done for the entire period.

Q2 What have been the main challenges you faced since you have started?

In the ICE store resources as well as the resource staff is a problem. Whenever a member of staff is added in the system, the cost will increase almost and almost doubles. This means that the workers available are made to work for many hours. Some of us work even for six or seven days a week. Such workers are however given a one week holiday when there is less work.

Another main challenge is market as well as staff resource. In this area, it is not necessarily important to have a skilled person as the marketing in ICE Stores requires that the person be trained by the other staff members. The store requires someone to do the marketing urgently and especially an individual with retail knowledge.

” Because I have absolutely no retail knowledge at all”(Ice store 2013).

Research shows that the main challenge faced by Johari designs is the way to improve sales. This is because their social enterprise is privately funded. They have not been able to obtain external funds. The other main challenge involves the distribution and marketing of the products. The challenge comes in when trying to make sales online because the company is not very well known and is a small company. The company is trying to have a shop as many people like trying out things before buying.

Communication is also a great challenge as the company tries to get suppliers to provide materials. Sometimes the company obtains lots of material and in other times get less.

According to the research findings, the main challenge in Cyrenian Farm was bringing the residents together to work on the farm. There was a lot of work in the farm which needed more people to do the job. The cows required to be fed and also milking every morning and evening. There was the challenge of changing the management which was supposed to look at the residential communities in a separate entity with the farm requirements.

Dunedin Canmare group has had challenges in obtaining money to do things. The availability of government grants has gone down. For instance, the government used to give 90% for housing association. Currently, they only give 50% and the rest is given as loan which is to attract interest. Other challenges include the paper work as the regulations on the policies are tough.

Q3 How have you accessed funding? What are your plans for your future?

The research findings showed that the funding for Organisation A was obtained from First Port and Big Fund which supported the young people. The government is trying to get individuals who are creative and with the best quality products so as to maintain good quality in the market. The store also obtained funds from flexible support fund, job centre which gives funds to train the individuals.

The future plans are to make the shop a self sustaining entity. This will be possible by first having the right marketing and location. The products for selling are very much available. Once people know about this and buy more from the store. The sustainability of the business and also funding is an important future plan for the business.

Results showed that Johari Designs obtained their funds from the Johari foundation. They have continued to rely on the funds which are obtained as private funding as they try to make profits from their sales.

The Cyrenian farm had challenges in funding even though there were several opportunities for them to take. However, they obtained funds from the local government which was aimed at supporting people in the farm. They also get funds from Edinburgh council which is given to the residents who live on the farm. The farm also relies on external funds for example the Leader, a European fund which helped in boosting the activities like growing house in the farm. The management identifies a project in the farm and requests for funds from grant bodies.

“ For example, we have lots of chicken around the farm and we got recently funded for bringing in a whole more chicken. And you have to replace your chicken every three years. But we have applied to a trust making body for that”.(Cynerian Farm, 2013)

Dunedin Canmare group has obtained funding through the grants, loans and income from sales of products. The grants are provided by the government and also the local authority.

The group plans to diversify in future so that it can attract more income with the aim of being independent. They want to expand and have more commercial buildings and consultancy among other property related services.

Q4 How satisfied and dissatisfied is your Social Enterprise with the different parts of funding?

It was found out that now that the social enterprise was youth focused, there is better funding accessibility. This is because many people are interested in supporting the youths and make them self employed.

“…Good accessibility of funding, because it was youth focused and there is a lot of interest in youth, and people try to support animals or cycling initiatives”(Ice store, 2013)

The application process did not take long (three months) and because the funds were not a loan, the Social Enterprise was not to refund. The First Port offered 2600 pounds while Big Fund gave 12,500 pounds.

Research shows that Johari Designs have not obtained any grants even though they have applied to Comic relief who informed them that they could obtain funds towards the social enterprise other than the so called charity.

“…..they informed us that it is probably more chance for us to get some funding for the social enterprise rather than the charity. Because it is still helping young women out of poverty by giving them employment.”(Johari foundation, 2013)

The funding process is very confusing for the Johari designers as there is a lot of information required such as information about the accounts, the questions are many and sometimes repeated hence bringing up confusion. The company however was able to obtain advice and became successful with the Comic Relief (Johari Foundations, 2013).

The Cyrenian farm has a problem with the funds in that the process for applying consumes a lot of time and it seems to be hard than it previously was. However, the grant making organizations provide support and also give advice to those who want to apply for grants. They have guidelines on the way to go about it. They also train people about the social enterprises. This makes people be perfect in applying for the grants.

According to research, the Dunedin Canmare group had a big challenge in obtaining the funds. This is because the process involved was long. The accessibility of grants is not easy as there are many organizations which are also applying for the same grants. On the other hand, the accessibility of loans is easy but attracts quite a huge interest. The bank process is quite complex and the rates are very high. Support and advice is however provided for instance by the BBC children foundation.

Q5 How did the local environment and the local statutory body influence the success of your Social Enterprise?

The research showed that the local environment and statutory bodies were not involved in the Social enterprise. The only issue that was in place was on the rates with the department. There were forms to be submitted before September so that the rates could be reduced. This took some time but was later resolved. The only thing the ICE store would want to change is the location though it is expensive because the local council have sold and its difficult for such companies as this to afford paying huge amounts like 100,000 pounds.

Findings obtained from Johari designers showed that they work very closely with local people and other social enterprises, jewellery producers, and other local cooperatives. This helps them greatly as the local people posses some knowledge and information which is vital to the foundation.

It is evident that the Cyrenian Farm are far much ahead with the social enterprises because they started long time ago before other people thought about it. This made them influence local government as they tried the same. The farm also had demonstration projects together with the government. These were used in investigating the social enterprise concept and also working with local businesses. The farm shares all these with various organisations , various networks and local social enterprises. As one shares with others, you get to learn more from them. The farm also has Public Social Partnership (PSP) which links the social organizations and public sector to come up with various solutions of doing things. The farm also has people who come on placement on the Community Jobs in Scotland. These people are not paid but are given pocket money and given a token for the time spend on the farm.

The Dunedin Canmare group obtained a lot of assistance from the local statutory body as the competition increased the graft accessibility. The group involved the locals quite a lot in obtaining information and other experiences.

Study limitations

Research quality was not independent -it was dependent on the individual skills of the one researching. Could easily be influenced by the researcher’s personal biases and idiosyncrasies and it was very difficult to maintain an impartial stance.Data volume that was huge would finally make the analysis and interpretation time consuming. Due to the nature of the data, qualitative, visual presentations are often hard to generate and if achieved are time consuming (Collis, 1987).


A good research methodology is a key to achieving the correct results for any study. It is therefore very important to put in place research methodology that will enable the researcher to acquireaccurate results (Bryman&Bell, 2007). This research sought to evaluate the roles, responsibilities and challenges facing social enterprises in Scotland. The research also sought to investigate the impact of the environment on the performance of the social enterprises as well as the sources of funding for social enterprises. In order to achieve these objectives in a single study, extensive investigation had to be carried out was required. For this reason, the researcher chose a research design that could give an extensive approach. This is why itcombined both the exploratory and confirmatory research designs. This gave the researcher first form a researchquestions through the exploratory research and then confirms the results through confirmatory research.

The research design also formed the base for the choice of the research approach. Instead of just using one approach, the researcher used one research approaches, YES the qualitative methods. This was aimed at forming a more reliable conclusion of the study.

To get good results for any study, the research sample has to be right (Bryman&Bell2007). For this purpose, the study identified enterprises that were closely related in terms of the operation mode. Though the researcher encountered various challenges and limitations it was possible to get quality, rich and extensive data that formed the basis for the research. The use of the qualitative research also allowed first hand interaction with the respondents. This was vital in that it helped gather more information than what would have gathered if quantitative analysis had been used. The choice of interviews and open ended questions wouldn’t have been better since it was as this resulted in the collection of valuable data.

Reference list

Babbie, E. (2011). The basics of social research. Australia Belmont, CA: Wadsworth / CengageLearning.Bryman, A. &Bell, E. (2007). Business research methodology. Oxford: oxford university press.

Collis Hussy, (2003). Business research. 8th ed. London: Mcgrawhill.

Creswell, J. (2003). Research Design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. Thousand oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Gerring, J. (2001). Social Science Methodology: a criteria framework. Cambridge New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jankowicz, A. (2005). Business research projects. London: Thomson learning.

Stebbins, R. (2001). Exploratory research in the Social Sciences.Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.


Interview guideline:

Q1 Tell me about your business

– Who are your beneficiaries?

– What is your area of work?

– What are your objectives/vision?

Q2 What have been the main challenges you faced over the years?

– Access of funding, paper work, legal framework, unexpected change in the economy

Q3 How have you accessed funding over the years?

– From the beginning to the present

– What are your plans for the future?

Q4. Is your social enterprise satisfied with the different aspects of funding?

Please explain

– Availability of grant, loan accessibility

– funding application and contractual process

– Advice and support

– Maintenance of contractual terms, timely payments

– Ability to recover costs of funding

Q5 How has the local environment and the local statutory body influence the success of yourSocial enterprise?

– To achieve goals (e.g. Independence)