Despite the importance gained by social enterprises (SEs) and the increased number of social enterprise networks (SENs) in the UK, there is a paucity of research into the role of these networks in enhancing the sector and creating value. The purpose of this paper is to provide empirical evidence assessing this value.
The assessment and insights were derived through a concurrent mixed method data collection strategy with 241 responses from members of SEs in the UK.
In terms of frequency, the use of SENs is still sporadic, denoting an immature stage of network lifecycle development. Moreover, it was identified that usage was affected primarily by the perceived usefulness of the information available. The ultimate value created was primarily of an informative nature rather than knowledge exchange.
A framework is developed describing the structure, content and interaction dimensions of value of SENs. The understanding of this value offers opportunities to shape government interventions and current practices of SENs in assisting SEs and providing an active, knowledge sharing community.
By exploring the value perceived by social entrepreneurs of being part of an SEN, the paper considered an under-researched area of SE literature that can maximised the impact of the sector.