Purpose: This paper explores what Social Enterprises (SEs) in the UK know and how they acquire, convert, apply and protect this knowledge. This will enable them to manage their knowledge effectively, hence improve their practices and maximize the creation of social, environmental and economic value.
Design/methodology/approach: This study follows a qualitative approach, comprising of 21 interviews with founders and senior members of SEs in UK.
Findings: The results show that the investigated SEs have KM practices similar to the already identified in SMEs, associated with informality, reliance on external sources and focus on socialisation activities, but they have unique challenges on managing their knowledge related to their hybrid mission, to include social and economic objectives, and their closed relationship with stakeholders.
Research limitations/implications: As there is limited research on Knowledge Management (KM) practices in SEs; they were defined based on previous studies in large, private and public companies. Therefore, not all practices may be included. This research is a starting point in the study of KM in SEs.
Practical implications: This study identifies knowledge activities that enable the creation of social, environmental and economic value in SEs. This allows SEs, small firms and non-profit organisations to review their current practices and develop plans for their further improvement.
Originality/value: This paper is one of the first empirical studies exploring KM practices in SEs, highlighting their informal nature as well as their impact in and on the enterprise.