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Creating Space for Communities: Social Enterprise and the Bright Side of Social Capital

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: Our general aim is to appreciate how social enterprise can create a space of cooperative relations and opportunities that impacts beneficially on community welfare. We refer to cooperative relations that are aimed at the pursuit of a social goal. In this sense we include only the bright side of social capital, as opposed to relational networks that are mainly functional to the pursuit of exclusive interests even at the detriment of others (the dark side). Consistently with the premise, in this work we provide an interpretative framework opposing two types of community models, one where community assets are used to pursue exclusive interests even at the detriment of wider social interests (the "community failure " model), and one based on relations that use assets to uncover and provide answers to community needs (the "community ownership " model). We focus on two social enterprise projects one on arts and one on health, and assess how they contribute to create community ownership as opposed to community failure. Specifically we regard social enterprises, their values and networks of cooperation as assets of a community or, in other words, as reservoirs of pro-social and cooperative attitudes that are able to create connectivity and engender flexible responses to community evolving needs. From this angle, we suggest that social enterprises can be seen as spaces (both physical and immaterial) which support individuals and communities in developing opportunities through activities of various nature as a response to contextual needs. The creation and use of space from this point of view is a reflection of specific values such as cooperation and the public interest.

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