Art-Based Social Enterprise Case Study Workshop


On 12 February 2019, our project team invited representatives from three art-based social enterprise organisations (ASEs) operating in Melbourne to attend a workshop. The three social enterprises  – The Social Studio, Youthworx and Outer Urban Projects – are organisations we are focusing on as case studies in this middle phase of our research. We brought them together to discuss the progress of our research so far, and create an opportunity for all three to exchange notes on the opportunities and difficulties faced when running a social enterprise focused on offering education and employment pathways in creative practice to marginalised young people.

Our workshop began with a welcome and introductions, followed by a presentation by co-investigator on the project, Dr Grace McQuilten, entitled ‘The good, the bad and the ugly of social enterprise’. Grace gave a survey of social enterprise research and literature, and discussed tensions and complexities that organisations face when centring their activities on the multiple, and at times conflicting goals, of arts practice, commercial activity and social impact. In interviews with twelve art-based social enterprises across Australia, our research has found evidence that it takes huge commitment and hard work to offer young people training and employment in the arts, achieve social targets while at the same time run a successful enterprise that relies on business activities, government grants and philanthropy. Interviewees have described these tensions in the following ways:

You’re trying to create social change like a charity would, you’re trying to run a business like a business would. And you’re saying that these two things can go together.


Generally, art doesn’t pay.


You’re probably not always creating the best business because we really always want to have a social impact.


Businesses want to be social  … you’re definitely seeing that … [but] sometimes I do think it’s lip service which concerns me.

Grace’s presentation was followed by a discussion of the ‘Moral economies of social enterprise’ by chief investigator on the project, Professor Peter Kelly. Peter, drawing on the work of Andrew Sayer, described “moral economy” as a concept that suggests a:

kind of inquiry focussing on how economic activities of all kinds are influenced and structured by moral dispositions, values and norms, and how in turn these are reinforced, shaped, compromised or overridden by economic pressures. (Sayer 2004b)

Peter explained that by examining social enterprise through the lens of moral economy, we can begin to identify and make explicit the moral dimensions of the emergence of the phenomenon of social enterprise, in order to bring into view the moral dimensions of this governmental ‘turn’ to social enterprise. This turn Peter describes as:

A turn that most explicitly hinges on diverse governmental attempts to make an array of non-state actors responsible for developing enterprising solutions to the challenges, paradoxes and contradictions faced by many millions of marginalised young people in a globalising, neo-liberal, capitalism.

Following this presentation, we discussed a range of topics with the three ASEs including the need for consistent data collection and evaluation reporting tools to measure the impact of their programs on young people’s well-being and skills development; the risk of ‘mission drift’ or compromising social purpose when there is too much onus on increasing revenue and attracting funding; as well as future objectives and outcomes of the research project.

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In other news, Professor Peter Kelly presented recently for the National Youth Commission Inquiry into Youth Employment and Transitions at the Multicultural Hub, Melbourne on 6 March 2019. His presentation on “Youth Employment: The Self as Enterprise, Social Enterprise, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” is available here: National Youth Commission-Submission-Peter Kelly

Global Grammars of Entrepreneurship


As I have tried to argue in my two previous blog posts, the principle that is operating in many EU and Spanish policies, both for young people and collectives (social enterprises), is that, to achieve a certain type of “success”, then individuals and groups need to imagine themselves as enterprises-businesses, and to do so from within market driven rationales. This is a trend that was identified by Foucault in the late 1970s (2008), and which has been developed further by other authors, including Lazzarato, (2012), Kelly, (2013), Lorey (2015) and Bröckling (2016). To develop this discussion further we are proposing the metaphor of grammar to better understand the usage rules, the norms and regulations, of this concept of entrepreneurship. In this blog post my aim will be to, first, sketch the circuits through which this grammar is expanded and reproduced and, second, I will break down this grammar by briefly describing its main components. I want to stress at the beginning that even though there are connections, this entry will be more focused on the global grammars of self-entrepreneurship than on the global grammars of social-enterprises.


Global Entrepreneurship Index 2015 somehow reproduces the notion of grammar I´m sketching.  Image retrieved from European Confederation of Junior Enterprises (JADE):

Local and Global Circuits of the Grammar

As a number of the blog posts here have identified, the measures implemented in different parts of Europe, and here in Victoria, that aim to foster social enterprises and youth entrepreneurship respectively can be understood as parts of an apparatus that put into on circulation or re-signifies concepts in a way that, far from being neutral are, in part, inherently moral. As we have shown, one of the most important producers and distributors of this grammar are agencies and institutions of government. These different agencies give shape to a political, juridical and administrative field of plausibility (lets say reality), where some possibilities are promoted, and others not so much. More specifically, significant policies and funding projects about entrepreneurship have enabled and fostered the emergence of a complex network of public and private institutions and agencies that aim to produce, support, accompany or guide different kinds of entrepreneurial projects.

Spanish (and Basque) government scientific policies, as with many other European countries that follow the Research Horizon 2020 European Union Program, defines entrepreneurship as a priority area for research in its R&D National Plan, and presents multiple, on-going calls. One way or another, these scientific policies have made ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘youth’ a significant ‘research niche’, where youth enterprise becomes an artefact of expertise (Kelly, 2000) in which all kind of academic and intellectual resources have been invested (and in which I am included*). As it happens with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) on a global scale, the local research and scientific fields, through a massive production of data about entrepreneurship, helps to performatively give shape and reality to the phenomenon (Latour, 2005, p.173 and ff.).

[*it is important to stress that academia is not exempt from the logic of entrepreneurialism. Platforms such as and are good examples of how we have become, in the context of cognitive capitalism, the commercialisation and marketization of knowledge, intellectual brands or academic-self-enterprises (Duffy and Pooley, 2017)].

In this particular framework, where the production of knowledge and the knowledge about capitalism overlap, the notion of cultural circuits of capitalism developed by Nigel Thrift (2005) is really helpful to understand the semantic and material expansion of the grammar of entrepreneurship (Kelly 2013, p.20). At the risk of simplifying, the main source from which the knowledge and truths about entrepreneurship emerges is management studies, a field that has proved to be especially receptive to various ‘schools of thought’ including post-structuralist social theory and complexity theories (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005). Thrift (2005, p.75) argues that the main producers of this discourse have been, since the 60s, the business schools (through the marketing of their MBA degrees), management consultants and management gurus (drawing on methods and technologies such as seminars, training programs, New Age philosophies and distribution tools). The business schools produce and stabilise knowledge; the gurus embody and perform successful examples; and management consultants have played a crucial role in the distribution and spreading of this knowledge. Over the last three decades these players in these cultural circuits have been able to process, package and place management knowledge in all kind of fields by providing versatile formulas, which can be applied in many diverse situations. As Sergio Bologna (2006, p.11) argues, the self-employment field has been specially shaped by this knowledge, and in last decades, when it should be questionable if all these formulas actually fit well to the figure of the ‘freelancer’ or the ‘autonomous worker’.

These mobile, stable and combinable packages of knowledge, technologies, methods and their equations can be easily detected (within the vocabulary of efficiency and productivity) not only in private corporations, but also in state and public institutions, Third Sector Organisations, Not-for-Profits, NGOs and social enterprises. And of course, individuals (from productivity apps to fitness trackers devices and so on).

With regard to the governmental programs on entrepreneurship I have talked about, it is easy to identify institutionalised cultural circuits of capitalism where a) the links between the academic production of knowledge, b) its distribution through consultancies, c) the development of policies of entrepreneurship, and d) the concretization of entrepreneurial projects becomes more clear. The 2020 Entrepreneurship Plan of the Basque Country, for example, offers a good example of these circuits, and the mirroring games that takes place between different western states and regions through the idea of “exemplary cases”.

Global Grammars

Map of international reference practices in entrepreneurship made by the Basque Government. Source: The 2020 Entrepreneurship Plan of the Basque Country (p.12).



This mirroring game, based on the idea of “replicability” of specific formulas and exemplary projects (as a way of spreading them horizontally), also plays an important role in a ‘scale-up’ logic that seeks to expand these ideas both vertically and horizontally (making them bigger and spreading them).

Doubt emerges when we realise that these kind of concepts, measurement systems and reports are not produced in a vacuum, and that, indeed, they are grounded and written from somewhere – most often by middle class, western academics, in western “developed” countries. If we take as an example the last GEM report on Social Entrepreneurship, successful and exemplary cases come from countries such as US and Australia, countries that are shaped by neoliberal policies. In addition, the European western countries, where the welfare state is being shrunk in quite violent ways, are identified as proper “ecosystems” for social enterprises. In thinking about the moral economies of social enterprise, we might then ask why other states and regions around the globe have to follow those grammars, these suggestions to behave in similar ways?


Non-State, Enterprise Actants

Beyond these more direct measures and their effects, there are also a myriad of agents that work in parallel to the political and legislative discourse of entrepreneurship, that reinforce this grammar.

Bruno Latour’s (2005) work allows us to identify how this grammar not only circulates at an institutional-policy level in the form of various reports, but through many other different spaces, circuits and actants. The production and circulation of all kind of inscriptions (reports, journal articles, research programs, laws, excel pages, apps, etc.) comprises a significant part of the non-human actors that give shape and continuity to this grammar. The framework of the Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) enables us to detect how this circulation of knowledge produces semiotic and material assemblages where non-humans become active actors in the local stabilisations and embodiments of the grammar of entrepreneurship.

Actor-Network-Theory stresses the importance to the materiality and capacity of the action of objects —as non-human actants– for in shaping the social. For example, this advertisement from an Uber campaign in Ghana, as a part of a, let’s say cynical, understanding of the “democratization” of entrepreneurship, represents how the car can become a mediator through which this grammar of enterprise is embodied. However, it should be stressed that the most important articulator (Latour, 2005, p.193) of this grammar would be, overall, the smart-phone.


Image retrieved from: :

Alongside the multitude of webpages, YouTube channels and blogs, the call to become entrepreneurial can be found in school curricula and financial institutions products, but also in entertainment industries, advertising, even in toys.

In 2014, for example, Mattel Toys released its Barbie Entrepreneur doll for young girls aged 3 and up (you can never start to soon imagining yourself as an entrepreneur!). In selling this doll to its demographic, and the parents of this demographic, Mattel tells them that as:

An independent professional, Barbie® Entrepreneur doll is ready for the next big pitch in a sleek pink and black dress. Her “smartphone,” tablet and briefcase are always by her side. Sophisticated details, like a statement necklace, chunky black handbag, belt, shoes and earrings keep her looking stylishly in charge


Image retrieved from:


These comments about the general structure of the global grammars of entrepreneurship enable me to move to a brief review of certain, more specific elements of this “vocabulary”. Most of these elements that structure the grammars of entrepreneurship are quite familiar to us and we all, possibly, have an idea of what they mean. However, reviewing them from critical points of view (Kelly, 2013; Bröckling, 2016) reveals elements that have been naturalised and are taken for granted, and, in addition, it helps to understand how the grammar of entrepreneurship is spread, and becomes such a normalised element of discourses about young people, education, training and work. My intention here is to sketch some concepts that, selected from constellations composed by other related notions, stand out as useful analysis categories.

The Self as Project

Extending Beck’s (1992) work, both Kelly (2013, p.53) and Bröckling (2016, p.5) argue that the “project” is a specific way of producing contemporary subjectivities. As a form of experimental configuration for the counter-cultural movements of ’68, and later, institutionalised in the managerial knowledge centres, the concept is nowadays far beyond the frame of labour and covers almost every kind of activity. “Project” is a way of organising reality through certain objectives, closed time periods, check points and feed-backs. As a process of rationalisation, it is a technology through which we relate to ourselves and to others. In this sense, currently all of us have to have a life-project composed of several on-going projects, which makes self-identity itself become a reflexive enterprise (Kelly, 2013, p.14; Rose, 2002 in Bröckling, 2016, p.189). Or posing it in the other way around, being without any kind of project is understood as a form of personal deficit, a failure. That is to say, having a project is equated with desire(s), having no project is close to the depressive mood (Han, 2015). In this sense, the entrepreneurial project is a technique of self-management, and project management a sort of lifestyle (Kelly, 2013, p.137). Continually and simultaneously establishing different projects has become “the proper form” of conducting oneself in a disciplined way. The self-entrepreneur is the epitome of this subjectification process, and the engagement of the participants in social enterprises in their on-going projects is an ‘ideal’ way of relating to work. Bröckling identifies in the counter-cultural movement’s experiments, an unexpected contribution to the contemporary forms of enterprise management (and social enterprises):

“such anti-capitalist social experiments involuntarily provided learning material for the entrepreneurial spirit. Their endless consultation and debates, their experiments with rotating task allocation, all the while riding on the edge of financial collapse —this all makes business start-up seminars look amateur and derivative. Operating under such precarious, under-capitalized, self-exploitative conditions, these alternative projects had to either turn professional, stay marginal or give up. Many self-organized groups mutated into innovative enterprises, which were all the more successful for their long years of practice in communication, harnessing collective energies and self-motivation.” (Bröckling, 2016, p.177)

So, overall, we could say that the notion of project has been reshaped in such a way that nowadays it plays a structuring role as a working frame both for self-enterpreneurs and social enterprises.


As it articulates such things as desires, personal will, freedom, etc., self-fulfilment is inherently linked to the dominant psychological representation of the individual in western societies. As such, it plays a crucial role in the expansion and circulation of the grammars of entrepreneurship. In that regard, the slogan of the Barbie entrepreneur doll – “If you can dream it you can be it” – condenses the promises made to young people by this grammar through educational institutions and vocational training markets (Morgan and Nelligan, 2018, p.149).

Among other aspects, Kelly (2013) has analysed thoroughly the time and spatial changes of certain types of “exemplary” works and their subjectification effects; how vocation is presented as something feasible to everyone; and the ways in which passion is posed as an individual inner capacity that has to be self-cultivated by the person who aspires to achieve some kind of professional-life success (Kelly and Harrison, 2009). As Dardot and Laval have observed:

“The unitary subject is thus the subject of total self-involvement. The target of the new power is the desire to realize oneself, the project one wishes to pursue, the motivation that inspires the “collaborator” of the enterprise, and, ultimately, desire by whatever name one chooses to call it.” (2013, p.288)

If we consider that the “democratisation of the search of self-fulfilment” through work is relatively new (Dardot and Laval, 2013), and its expansion has much to do with being a ‘role model’ for Richard Florida’s creative class or Isabell Lorey’s cultural producers (2015), its actual function as a normalised/ing imperative becomes clearer:

Perhaps those who work creatively, these precarious cultural producers by design, are subjects that can be exploited so easily because they seem to bear their living and working conditions eternally due to the belief in their own freedom and autonomy, due to self-realization fantasies. In a neoliberal context they are exploitable to such an extreme that the State even presents them as role models (Lorey, 2006, p.6)

Individualization processes (Bauman, 2001) and the emergence of post-materialist values (Inglehart, 1989), together with a deep (and materialistic) precarization of labour markets after the GFC, seems to have fostered more intensively the desire for self-fulfilment and for self-determination that the omnipresent expression of “I want to be my own boss” synthesises. In other words, in a context where working conditions are increasingly tough, the self-fulfilment and self-determination promise that is central to the grammar of entrepreneurship seems to become a way of reproducing an individual’s ‘unique value proposition’, or the call to ‘be different’ (Bröckling, 2016, p.196). Angela MacRobbie (2010) observes that, given the precariousness of waged labour, “choosing” to become a self-entrepreneur, even with the same ranges of precariousness, would at least meet the desire of self-fulfilment or fulfil the “inner”-vocation.


One of the most important but elusive elements regarding self/social entrepreneurship has to with the notion of creativity understood as a “productive energy”. As George Morgan and Pariece Nelligan (2018) argue in their recently published book The Creativity Hoax, while workers’ creativity was by little considered in Fordist capitalism (even ‘frowned upon’ in standardises, routinized labour process), nowadays the notion is one of the core elements of the new working (and living) regimes. Since it was “re-discovered” as an almost endless source of profit (by adding value to commodities, transforming the forms of designing, producing and distributing goods faster and more efficiently, etc.), fostering it has become the obsession for corporations and public institutions (so we should all be intra-preneurs). Here, ‘creativity’ can be traced back to a semantic displacement: from an anthropological-romantic understanding of it as an instituent force that generates something new or disruptive (not necessarily productive or good in economic and moral terms respectively), to an institutionalized and rationalised set of techniques that seek to produce, standardize and make it profitable (Morgan and Nelligan, 2018, p.3). From the perspective of the grammars of entrepreneurship, creativity is re-framed mostly as the ability to imagine, identify and/or produce/solve a gap (called necessity, service, etc.) in the “normal order of things” in order make an economic profit. The more contemporary term of ‘innovation’ would point to those changes where the constructivist understandings of creativity, and the psychological knowledge produced about it, have made it measurable (Morgan and Nelligan, 2018, p.9) and translatable to managerial techniques (Bröckling, 2016, p.111). As the contemporary imperative of being creative (Morgan and Nelligan, 2018, p.15) overlaps with the need for acting in an entrepreneurial way, we can talk about a renewed economization and marketization of the ability of human and non-human actors/materials generating unforeseen combinations and relations (in other words, agency).


The need to be flexible is another core characteristic of grammars of entrepreneurship. In a ‘positive’ sense, flexibility is generally understood as a cognitive skill that enable the person to adapt and adjust to the different conditions of a new context. In this way, it is a personal attitude that enables the person to ‘best’ navigate unpredictable and uncertain environments. Masterfully portrayed by Richard Sennett (1998, 2006), this call to be flexible can be understood as the individualisation and subjectification of the changes in the organization of corporations towards structures that are more adaptable to the fluctuations of the markets. The movement, the transition from rigid, bureaucratic, ‘Fordist’ structures in the last 40 years to more fluid and agile networks must now be reflected in the subjectivity of the young entrepreneur:

Cutting-edge firms and flexible organizations need people who can learn new skills rather than cling to old competencies. The dynamic organization emphasizes the ability to process and interpret changing bodies of information and practice. (Sennet, 2006, p.115)

Management knowledges, and psychology of work, have paved the way for establishing and stabilising the ‘truths’ of flexibility for young entrepreneurs (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005; Rose, 1999). In work policies in EU, for example, the emergence of terms such as flexicurity attempt to gather and balance the securities related to Fordist working regimes with the uncertainties of the current ones (Keune and Serrano, 2014). ‘Flexibility’ represents an uninterrupted appeal to the responsibility of individuals for maintaining their ability to adapt to the determinations of the new knowledge economy (Zimmermann, 2014). It has come to mean that a flexible person is the one who is dynamic, open to change and reflexive. Flexibility operates as a moral category because it gestures away from the volatile, inconsistent or fickle person. In its latest iteration, these ideas of ‘flexibility’ articulate to powerful, omnipresent psychological understandings of resilience, which also goes hand in hand with the category of self-responsibility (Rose and Lentzos, 2017).

Flexibility and resilience impel the self-entrepreneur to, somehow, remain competitive. Given the consensus on the impossibility of changing the uncertain, precarious character of contemporary labour markets, we have little choice but to “go with the flow” and follow the markets inertia by cultivating, unceasingly, our own flexibility and resilience in order to overcame the next, more than likely, crisis.


Closer to the pragmatist rationale determined by the “real” frame of the market, the viability of the entrepreneurial project emerges as a compulsory checkpoint for its development. The ‘business plan’ of any kind of project, following Latour (2007), is an ‘inscription device’ that, subject to economic evaluation, will circulate in the cultural circuits of capitalism, especially in its financial-funding section. The business plan is a stabilisation of an expectation of the productivity that prescribes a program through which the economical profitability of the project is defined. In other terms, it measures the predictability of the project in an uncertain context (Thrift, 2005, p.40). As a technology developed by the management knowledge centres and the business schools, it is unimaginable to conceive any self- or social-enterprise project without its itemised, prioritised, justified business plan (Bologna, 2006, p.101). Related to the notion of project, but closer to the economic dimension, viability emerges as a compulsory checkpoint for its development and its financialization. And, it should be apparent, that management knowledge, management consultants, and financial institutions will play a central role in helping to give shape to it.


Risk-taking is the notion that links and reframes most of the concepts sketched up to this point. Peter Sloterdijk (2013a), the German philosopher, explains the development of capitalist globalization through colonialism, mercantilism and the birth of the modern state. At the same time, he also traces back the primary forms of self-entrepreneurs to the explorers and discoverers of the 16th and 17th centuries. With the discovery and conquest of America, a growing desire for mobility and personal enrichment is triggered throughout Europe. New actors willing to risk appear in order to obtain profits and pay off investment credit debts (2013a, p.71). Taking risk within the horizon of uncertainty would be the “new” subjective disposition and the pragmatic foundation of the modern culture of expanding and reaching out. “Discovery” —fuelled by self-fulfilment and triggered by creativity, organized by the project and judged feasible through the business plan— becomes a special case of an investing phenomenon, which situates the debtor and the financial sector in the front of the stage. Here, risk-taking makes reference to the productive moment of grammars of enterprise. That moment, that space when all sorts of investments that the self-enterpreneur makes in/of herself in a context of uncertainty, pushes her to “go beyond herself” in order to cope with that situation of uncertainty (or the debt contracted). Ironically, beyond the indebtedness that education and training implies nowadays, the case of the self-enterpreneur who gets a mortgage to fund her project shows an auto-referential loop where she is paying, again, for having a work or developing a fulfilling career.

Examples of this rationale abound. In the example below the National Australia Bank (NA), one of Australia’s ‘big 4’ banks/financial institutions that provide the ‘pillars’ for successive Australian governments to build national financial/banking policy on, uses this grammar of entrepreneurship to call for intensifying an ascetic self-introspection and self-surveillance in order to go beyond your current situation – by identifying your “true” desire(s).

Sin títuloImage retrieved from: NAB (@NAB) | Twitter.

The grammars of entrepreneurship as an anthropotechnic

Lastly, following Sloterdijk’s (2013b) work —interestingly titled “You must change your life”—, given the biopolitical character and the links with the care of the self that implies the grammar of entrepreneurship, it could be also posed as an anthropotechnic. Departing from Foucault’s (1988) analyses on the technologies of the self, Sloterdijk defines the anthropotechnics as self-immunization exercises and “training programs” with origins in the Ancient Greece that seek both the betterment of oneself and the immunisation of certain social groups. The contemporary ascetic practices of modernity have abandoned the ideal of the contemplative life to become techniques oriented towards dis-inhibition and constant experimentation (“Talk to yourself more about you really want”). Contemporary anthropotechics no longer seek to “immunize” (Lorey, 2015) the subjects but to expel them “outside” their primary spheres to an exteriority where risk dominates, making them a sort of “discoverers”. The imperative of “universal mobilization”; the commitment to limitlessness implied by grammars of entrepreneurship, through the will of going beyond oneself, the desire to increase one’s own abilities and to improve the performance of oneself, can all be framed in the anthropotechnics that seek both the government of others and of the self.

To finish with this long blog entry, some work remains to be done to achieve what I proposed at the beginning. It remains to identify what kind of responses, appropriations, declensions or resistances (as types of individuation and subjectification processes) are producing this grammar of entrepreneurship. Something that I will turn to my next and last blog entry.

In any case, one of the most important ideas to keep in mind is that the ways in which ‘social rights’ and ‘social integration’ mechanisms used to be provided or “guaranteed” by the State (work, education, health, housing, communications, transport, environment, etc.) have, in many contemporary settings, become market orientated fields that promise opportunities of self-employment for self-entrepreneurs, or areas where social enterprises projects “are waiting” to be developed. In other words, in the ruins of the most institutionalised western forms of solidarity, the script we are encouraged to follow is the entrepreneurial one. Indeed, we see here the clear outlines of a ‘moral economy’ of enterprise – self and/or social.



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BOLTANSKI, L. & CHIAPELLO, È. 2005. The new spirit of capitalism, London, Verso.

BRÖCKLING, U. 2016. The Entrepreneurial Self. Fabricating a New Type of Subject, London, SAGE.

DARDOT, P. & LAVAL, C. 2013. The new way of the world: on neoliberal society, London, Verso.

DUFFY, B. & POOLEY, J. 2017. “Facebook for Academics”: The Convergence of Self-Branding and Social Media Logic on Social Media + Society, 1-11.

FOUCAULT, M. 1988. Technologies of the Self, Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Press.

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The European Policies on Social Enterprises and the Catalonian Case

My aim in this second blog entry will be to offer a general overview of the most recent European policies on social enterprises and to go a little bit deeper on the approaches and understandings of social enterprises through a review of research carried out in Catalonia.

As I said in the previous blog post, even though policies oriented to the ‘Third Sector’ go back to the late 1980s, the core document, which most of current European policies regarding social entrepreneurship are based on, is the Social Business Initiative published in 2011. Since 2011, as the main European Commission web page related to social entrepreneurship observes (Supporting entrepreneurs and the self-employed – Social entrepreneurship), diverse policies and measures have been implemented and several initiatives have been carried out. Among them, significant contributions in the form of mappings and comparative projects, smaller reports focused on specific countries made in 2014, and further extensions carried out in 2016.

image 1 Reports FINAL.001

Image: Compilation of covers of different documents produced by the European Union about Social entrepreneurship.

After a non-systematic review of many of these documents it could be said that one of the core problems (which has theoretical, methodological, analytical and policy implementation consequences) has to do with the incommensurable diversity and richness that the concept of social enterprise tries to gather. The diversity and rhizomatic nature (Deleuze & Guattari, 2005, p.3) of the initiatives that “social entrepreneurship” tries to sum up in Europe has to do with the goals and philosophies of each initiative, its structure, organization and institutionalization level. But more importantly, this diversity is related to the ways in which the different Welfare States have been developed during the 20th century in Europe (Sping-Andersen, 1990). More precisely, the current multiplicity of forms that these activities show is directly related to the ways in which the productive systems (including cities and neighbourhoods), their working regimes, and their associated welfare systems, have been reshaped in the last thirty years. From this point of view, as I’ll argue, the different austerity measures implemented in the European States after the Global Financial Crisis would be the latest “update” of this trend (Lorey, 2015; Kelly and Pike, 2017; Alonso and Fernández Rodríguez, 2018).

Social enterprises in the European Union

IMAGE 2Countries with specific legal forms or statutes for social enterprise:A map of social enterprises and their eco-systems in Europe p4

European countries with specific legal forms or statutes for social enterprises. Image retrieved from: A map of social enterprises and their eco-systems in Europe. p. 4.

To begin with, and broadening the definition of social entrepreneurship that I suggested in the last blog post, the European Commission uses the term to account for the following types of business*:

  • Those for who the social or societal objective of the common good is the reason for the commercial activity, often in the form of a high level of social innovation
  • Those whose profits are mainly reinvested to achieve this social objective
  • Those where the method of organisation or the ownership system reflects the enterprise’s mission, using democratic or participatory principles or focusing on social justice
*For a more academic (and complex) operationalization of the notion that reflects the diverse understandings of social enterprises in Europe, it is worth reading the first part of the report: “Social enterprises and their eco-systems: developments in Europe” (Borzaga, & Galer, 2016: 8-13).

In the EU there are multiple legal forms that a social enterprise can adopt. They can operate as cooperatives; as private companies limited by guarantee (which some of them are mutual); and many of them are non-profit-distributing organisations (including provident societies, associations, voluntary organisations, charities and foundations). Operating in fields such as work integration, personal social services, local development of disadvantaged areas and collectives, environmental protection, arts, sports, culture preservation, etc., the concept covers a really wide “social field”. In the 20th century this space, at least in western industrialized countries, has been occupied by the church (or philanthropic collectives close to it), the welfare state, trade unions and a whole range of associations, including governmental organizations, some social movements, and diverse collectives (Baglioni, 2017, p. 2329). To some extent, it could be said that one of the main features of this “social field” was being “outside” the market – even though it was an effect of the market development in the industrialized states frame, and it operated, in some cases, as a functional externalization zone, and/or a reproductive area for it. In this sense, the notion of social enterprises fostered by the European Commission, as it stresses the business aspect of these activities, redefines this field placing it in the semantic area of the market driven economy. The closing slogan of the promotional video about these European social entrepreneurship policies makes it clear: “Business with a human touch” — implying that the EU now takes for granted, as a departure point, that “all of them are business”.

Video retrieved from:

Social Enterprises in Europe: tensions, limits, possibilities

Many social-enterprises are structured and obey certain logics of alternative economies —solidarity, sustainability, fair trade, etc.— or have their origins in social movements. The imperative to adopt enterprise forms of management and a clear business ethos on behalf of arguments such as efficiency, is relatively new (at least in some countries). For example, the European Commission shows its determination to supporting social economy through The Start-up and Scale-up Initiative, a political “tool” designed for promoting, developing and growing conventional for-profit start-ups and small and medium enterprises:

IMAGE 3 start-up_scale-up_crop

Image retrieved from:

In this sense, the main proposals of this initiative revolve around the objectives of removing barriers for start-ups to scale up in the single market; creating better opportunities for partnership, commercial opportunities and skills; facilitating access to finance, etc. Overall, and as it was pointed out previously, while these kinds of support oriented to the market might be helpful for the institutionalization of some social-enterprises, there is no doubt that they can also be quite problematic for others. Beyond the possible contradictions with the socially oriented goals that are central to their missions, social enterprises “have proved to be resilient [to the Global Financial Crisis]” precisely because of their small size, their community based nature, their self-managing ability as small organizations and, very importantly, the personal commitment of their participants (an engagement of the employees that every conventional enterprise or public institution desires to have). In this vein, the “Social enterprises and their eco-systems: developments in Europe” (Borzaga, & Galer, 2016) report stresses that:

Social enterprises’ success factors only partially coincide with those of mainstream enterprises (…) neither legal recognition nor access to finance are per se sufficient conditions for boosting social enterprise multiplication. (…) Key drivers boosting social enterprise’s development and scaling up include a wider recognition on the part of national governments and the definition of consistent public policies, including public procurement strategies that fully acknowledge the special nature of social enterprises (…) (pp.45-46)

In this sense, the problems and debates regarding the definition of social entrepreneurship remains wide open, up to the point that in some contexts there are initiatives that explicitly refuse to be categorized in that way (Borzaga, & Galera, 2016: 17; Molina et al. 2017: 22). These cases show us that the category is by no means neutral. Thus, these sort of resistances have to be understood in a context where the rise of the concept in certain countries (as a top-down landing concept) is directly related with long term precarisation processes and the neoliberal reorganization of the Welfare State through a myriad of austerity measures. The arguments for fostering social enterprises that are given in an early policy brief shared by the European Commission and the OECD point out the displacement sketched in the closure of my previous post:

Working with social enterprises and promoting their development can result in short and long-term gains for public budgets through reduced public expenditures and increased tax revenues compared with other methods of addressing social needs. (p. 3 and p.12)

In this context, it is interesting to quote an argument about consequences of the former proposal as it is developed in the Editorial of a recently published special issue on Social Enterprises and Welfare regimes in Europe*:

[The social enterprise sector] has promoted genuine innovations in terms of increased capacity to reach specific vulnerable groups, as well as in terms of capacity to deliver new services. However, such an innovation has often been pursued in combination with public action retrenchment, sometimes helping to justify it, with consequences on people’s lives (…) (Baglioni, 2017 p. 2337)

* For anyone interested in this kind of debates (and conflicts) this publication is an important work that covers different European states with contributions of independent researchers.

Overall, the conclusions of the Spanish report  Social enterprises and their eco-systems: A European mapping report, also written by independent academics, sums up quite effectively the main debates that are taking place around the growth of social-entrepreneurship both in Spain and in Europe:

The main discussion topics revolve around the position of social enterprises in relation to the social economy, the level of constraint on profit distribution, the source of funding to be considered a social enterprise, the need to create a social enterprise label and the economic role of these organisations. In all, these issues point toward the wider debate of whether social enterprises can best be understood as an innovative institutional tool for a new system of social welfare or as an excuse to justify the withdrawal of public authorities from the provision of certain services. (p. 50)

Social Enterprises in Catalonia

To further develop the idea that these grammars of enterprise have a “local vocabulary” or a “local dialect”, I will review some interesting empirical research centred on the social enterprises carried out in Catalonia (Spain) by a research group of the Autonomous University of Barcelona titled: Social entrepreneurship: local embeddedness, social networking sites and theoretical development.

To start with it has to be taken in to consideration that in Catalonia, as is the case in the Basque country, there is a strong tradition of co-operativism and social movements that somehow have operated as the substrate for the contemporary emergence and “success” of social entrepreneurship. Without that background it is difficult to understand the current configuration of the field of social and alternative economies in Catalonia.

According to the most significant works published out of this research (Valenzuela-García et al., 2015; Molina et al, 2017 —this one in English), one of the main events that explains the emergence of the concept of social entrepreneurship in Spain around 2010 has to do with the transformation of the Saving Banks (Cajas de Ahorros) into ordinary commercial banks. Saving banks were, historically, public, non-profit, financial institutions owned by the provincial governments and controlled by local political representatives. The original aim of Saving Banks was to encourage thrift among the very poor and the emerging working class, and their profits were reinvested in diverse social programs and welfare projects. In the last decades of the 20th century, thanks to the incentives of the governments, they evolved up to the point to compete with commercial banks, and in 2008 they still represented half of the Spanish financial sector. Even though they were not exempt from instances of corruption and complaints about dubious administration, they administered significant budgets for all kinds of social expenditures. Through direct and indirect public funding these financial institutions enabled and fostered areas of activity that were occupied by organizations from the “social economy” and the “third sector economy” (Valenzuela-García et al., 2015, pp. 182). After the GFC, the vacuum left after the disappearance and/or privatization of these Saving Banks (and the consequent extinction of the programs they were funding), has been partially occupied by foundations of conventional commercial banks and multinational companies under the framework of responsible banking (Molina et al, 2017, pp. 6). These foundations, supported by local administration and in collaboration with different business schools, started to develop programs to foster social-entrepreneurship by offering access to financing, counselling, training, and networks to “promising” social ventures. The intervention of these agents made social-entrepreneurship appear as a “new” space —a new grammar— where most of the organizations, cooperatives, associations and collectives had to move, redefine themselves, and “compete” in order to maintain their activities (Valenzuela-García et al., 2015, pp. 182). These developments, alongside extreme austerity measures imposed in Spain, have seen many citizens forge new solidarity and alternative economy initiatives, making this generic analytical space of “social economy” even bigger and more diverse.

Interestingly, as a strategy to better tackle all this complexity, the authors of the research conceptualized that space, following Fligstein and MacAdam (2011), as an unsettled Strategic Action Field (SAF) (Molina et al, 2017, pp. 19). In this field banks and multinational companies, foundations, business schools and public administrations alike promote the label of “social entrepreneurship” through diverse incentives. At the same time other groups claiming the same social/environmental goals contest their market-oriented definition of the field (Molina et al, 2017, p.1). The authors of the research stress that the former agents have enabled and stabilized a prescriptive and tautological definition of social entrepreneurship that defines that a social enterprise is any kind of profit or non-profit venture with social objectives (Valenzuela-García et al., 2015, pp. 181). In addition, the concept seems also to fulfil a marketing strategy by associating banks and their foundations with positive social and environmental values precisely in times of a deep discredit and financial downturn (Molina et al, 2017, pp. 20).

In this scenario, as has been done in the Art-Based Social Enterprises Project, the research group made a mapping of the Catalonian social-enterprises that is represented in the image below:

map grafo SE. Catalonia

Map of the social/environmental organizations/initiatives in Catalonia. Image elaborated from their database and retrieved from Molina et al (2017, pp. 10)

After completing a complex, mixed method fieldwork (in which together with ethnographies, in depth interviews and social network analyses, they built up a database of more than three hundred social-enterprises), they established an analytical continuum with two extremes. On one side they locate the market oriented social enterprises which more or less fits with the “official” definition of the social entrepreneurship. On the other side they locate the exchange-oriented initiatives that in some cases reject the category of social enterprises. Along this continuum they elaborate a significant analytical typology composed of “the displaced”, “the converted”, “the chosen” and the “challengers” (Valenzuela-García et al., 2015, pp. 183).

The first category represents professionals and other people who used to work as social workers or had a background in integration services. Regardless of their “genuine” commitment to social and environmental values, they seem to have moved to this field adopting the label of social entrepreneurship as a self-employment strategy in response to unemployment, to present themselves well in public spaces, as well as for applying to new funding programs. “The converted” type brings together those non-profit organizations which have transformed to operate as commercial business after the reduction or disappearance of the public funding they used to be supported by. Both “types” have chosen this label due to the positive image associated with it, and because it emphasizes the collective nature of the ventures —in accordance with the strong cooperative tradition in Catalonia (Molina et al, 2017, pp. 22). Those categorized as “chosen” represent those initiatives that fit well with the “official” market-oriented definition of social enterprise. These types have been acknowledged by public institutions and agencies and have received awards and funding that have boosted enormously their capacity of action. In other words, the “chosen” are mainly the ventures that are presented by the media as paradigmatic examples of successful social enterprises. Finally, at the other end of the continuum are “the challengers”, a large, complex range of collaborative initiatives close to anti-market and anti-capitalist philosophies. In developing similar projects, and showing the same post-materialistic values (Inglehart, 1977, 1989) of the other types, they reject the use of the term “social entrepreneurship” in the sense that, among other things, they do not agree with the presence of actors such as banks or foundations in the field (Molina et al, 2017, p. 22).

The authors develop these ideas with more detail, care and accuracy than I’m doing here and I strongly recommend reading their research. Among all the complexities, controversies and problems that revolve around the “landing” of the concept of social-entrepreneurship in Catalonia, it is worth noting how, depending on the background, interests, values and objectives of each agent in the field, this global grammar of social-entrepreneurship acquires different accents, diverse meanings, uses and purposes:

(…) in this complex societal transformation, “social entrepreneurs” are primarily those individuals who are awarded as such by homonymous funding programs. This is mostly an urban phenomenon, whose dwellers are facing profound societal changes, to which they are reacting with initiatives more suited to their values, education, and material conditions of life in a market economy. Possibly, we are facing a global trend. On the other hand, other people with the same social/environmental concerns, and the same capacity to mobilize resources for “changing the world,” are comfortably installed either in the cooperative or in anti-market sectors (Molina et al, 2017, pp. 22).

A number of opportunities present themselves in thinking about the social enterprise field, its emergence in contexts where global social, economic and political disruptions and change play out in different ways in different places, in different histories and different presents. These opportunities include what we can learn from recognising, listening to, and paying close attention to these different vocabularies, these different accents, these different voices. I will explore a number of these possibilities in my final post.


ALONSO, L. E. & FERNÁNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ, C. J. 2018. Poder y sacrificio. Los nuevos discursos de la empresa, Madrid, Siglo XXI.

BAGLINONI, S. 2017. A Remedy for All Sins? Introducing a Special Issue on Social Enterprises and Welfare Regimes in Europe. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organization, 28 (6), 2325-2338.

BORZAGA, C. & GALER, G. 2016. Social Enterprises and their eco-systems: developments in Europe. Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Brussels, European Commission.

DELEUZE, G., & GUATTARI, F. 2004. A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, London.

ESPING-ANDERSEN, G. 1990. The three worlds of welfare capitalism, Cambridge, Polity Press.

FLIGSTEIN, N., & MCADAM, D. 2011. Towards a general theory of strategic action fields. Sociological Theory, 29(1), 1–26.

INGLEHART, R. (1977). The silent revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

INGLEHART, R. (1989). Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

KELLY, P., & PIKE, J. (Eds.). 2017. Neo-Liberalism and Austerity. The Moral Economies of Young People’s Health and Well-being, London, Palgrave-Macmillan.

LOREY, I. 2015. State of Insecurity : Government of the precarious, London, Verso.

MOLINA, J. L., VALENZUELA-GARCÍA, H., LUBBERS, M. J., ESCRIBANO, P. & LOBATO, M. M. 2017. “The Cowl Does Make The Monk”: Understanding the Emergence of Social Entrepreneurship in Times of Downturn. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, Special Issue, 1-24.

VALENZUELA-GARCÍA, H., MOLINA, J. L., LUBBERS, M. J. & LOBATO, M. M. 2015. Empresas sociales en Cataluña. ¿Cambio de paradigma o estrategia de clase media? Otra Economía,, 9, 177-186.

Grammars of Entrepreneurship

Let me introduce myself, I’m Diego Carbajo, a postdoctoral researcher of the University of the Basque Country (Spain) who is in Melbourne since last year. Currently I’m developing a research project titled The Grammars of Self-entrepreneurship in the Basque Country from an International Perspective in the School of Education at RMIT under the supervision of Professor Peter Kelly. Beyond the specificity of this study case, and based in works such as Peter’s The Self as Enterprise (2013) my project develops the hypothesis of the emergence and stabilisation of a “Grammar of Self-Entrepreneurship” on a global scale. A global grammar that is not posed as a culture or an ideology, but something closer to a discourse, an apparatus or an assemblage that helps us to understand not only how young people are incited to behave and act in certain ways, but how we are induced to perform a certain type of individuality nowadays.

Image obtained from

Through a number of upcoming posts I will outline the common elements of some governmental policies about self and social enterprises that connect geographically, culturally and politically distant places such as Victoria (AUSTRALIA), Scotland (UK) and the Basque Country (SPAIN). Following the way paved in previous posts, my aim is to sketch an entry point to the Global Grammars of Self/Social Enterprise. So, while this first contribution is focused on an institutional and descriptive level, the second will be more analytical and it will try to establish some connections between my project and this project on arts based social enterprise. Finally, the third one will be focused on defining the core elements that give shape to the global grammar of entrepreneurship. On the whole, I will explore the following research questions:

  • How the concepts of self and social enterprise have been developed and deployed in various governmental spheres?
  • What kind of governmental circuits do they emerge from and are subject to? Do they have a structure and/or obey any rationale?
  • What kind of uses and meanings have they acquired?
  • How are these concepts downloaded? How is that vocabulary framed in local territories?

Of course, this is a big endeavour for some blog entries. So, I will settle for drafting the core ideas and trends that are important here and will develop them in forthcoming conference publications and journal articles (that will be available here).

A note on the global production of entrepreneurs

First of all it is worthy to note that one of the main agents that contributes to giving reality and continuity (Latour and Woolgar, 1986; Law, 2009, p.249) to entrepreneurship as an international phenomenon through a massive production of statistical data (Foucault, 2009, p.274) is the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). Founded in 1999, this international agency operates as a global census of entrepreneurship and produces and circulates a range of indicators of entrepreneurship. In addition, it provides regional analyses, international comparatives and different state rankings that contribute to making entrepreneurship a standardised and measurable global phenomenon (Osborne & Rose, 1999). Its work is not limited to conventional understandings of entrepreneurship and in the last decade its area of action has been expanding quite significantly. For instance, its latest report on social enterprises it shows an evolving sophistication of its measuring tools. Overall, this agency is taken as a trustworthy data source by academics, journalists and diverse agencies, but more importantly, it is taken as a reference by policy makers, states and organisations such as the OECD and the European Union that need to measure quantitatively, and to some extent, performatively produce and standardise, entrepreneurship (Law, 2009, p.248). My intention here is not to go into great detail about GEM, but to take it into account as an international agent in the production of academic, social and political representations of entrepreneurship.

The EU and Enterprise: European policies on entrepreneurship

Although there are differences in its member countries, the European Union (EU) establishes the foundations and the directives for the employment, entrepreneurship and social enterprise policies implemented by member states. It would take too long to index and explain here all the complex network of policies that have been developed since the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, but it is important to note that the current programmes are a continuation of that established by the 2000 Lisbon European Council (Ginesta, 2013).

On the one hand, regarding entrepreneurship, the Lisbon council proposed active incentive mechanisms for entrepreneurship —including private economic initiatives— as drivers of European economic long-term growth. As Ginesta (2013, p.60) shows, the early 2003 Green Paper on Entrepreneurship in Europe highlighted the need to develop comprehensive programs to promote entrepreneurship on an individual, business and society level. The results and measures taken after those initiatives can be seen in different action plans but above all, in the Small Business Act approved in 2008 and reviewed in 2011. Both Acts are the foundations of the current Entrepreneurship 2020 Action plan: Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe, which presents three main objectives:

  1. Developing entrepreneurial education and training
  2. Creating the right business environment (ecosystem)
  3. Identifying and promoting role models and reaching out to specific groups (—unemployed— young people women, seniors, immigrants, etc).

All of them seek, among other things, a far-reaching cultural change to make entrepreneurship the engine of economic growth in Europe (Op. Cit. p.4). It is apparent that these policies are based on a strong market oriented rationale where entrepreneurship is directly associated to job-rich recovery and prosperity —assumption that is becoming as arguable as the one that states that economic growth automatically creates jobs. Indeed, as all of these objectives are aimed at individual entrepreneurs, and at Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), they create a sense, often ambiguous, that an enterprise as an institutional product is both a personal quality of (initiative), and/or that individuals contain the qualities of an enterprise (Armstrong, 2005, p.6). The logic that articulates the “grammar” I want to refer to is evident in the European Commission Website:

Europe’s economic growth and jobs depend on its ability to support the growth of enterprises. Entrepreneurship creates new companies, opens up new markets, and nurtures new skills. The most important sources of employment in the EU are Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). The Commission’s objective is to encourage people to become entrepreneurs and also make it easier for them to set up and grow their businesses.(Op. cit.)

As an early blog post also suggested, the understanding of entrepreneurship that this Act establishes is close to an attitude, a skill and to a moral disposition:

Entrepreneurship is an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation, risk taking, ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. (Op. cit. European Commission Website)

But more importantly, this definition is wide and ambiguous enough to include in it those self-employees, social enterprises and all kind of collectives (especially young people) who, after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) are defined by various EU agencies as a priority vulnerable group that require urgent intervention.

On the other hand, with regard to Social Enterprises, even though policies oriented to the ‘Third Sector’ go back to the late 1980s, the core document, where most of the current European policies are located, is the Social Business Initiative published in 2011. For our purposes, it is interesting to note how social enterprises are defined in the web page of the European Commission and how the adjective of entrepreneurial enables us to situate both entrepreneurship (as a disposition, but also as a particular type of person) and social enterprises in the same analytical framework:

A social enterprise is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. (Op. cit.)

The call for persons to be, or to become entrepreneurial is a crosscutting issue in all the different political programs regarding employment (Keune & Serrano, 2014), and gives shape to an apparatus (Foucault, 1980, p.194-195) that has been analysed in several works (Kelly, 2013; Bröckling, 2016). This notion of apparatus is specially evident if we take into account the wide range of measures, materials, activities, experts and good practice guides, that can be found the European Commission website section dedicated to social enterprises —to be analysed in my next post.

In this frame, youth becomes a paradigmatic case of these governmental processes [close to a biopolitical program (Foucault, 2008)] when we identify arguments that suggest that entrepreneurial learning promises the most significant and important solution to improve young people’s employability (Serrano & Martín, 2017). As posed in the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan: Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe:

Whether or not they go on to found businesses or social enterprises, young people who benefit from entrepreneurial learning, develop business knowledge and essential skills and attitudes including creativity, initiative, tenacity, teamwork, understanding of risk and a sense of responsibility. This is the entrepreneurial mind-set that helps entrepreneurs transform ideas into action and also significantly increases employability. (Op. cit. p.6)

It is important to keep in mind that even though the notion of entrepreneurship has a trajectory of at least twenty years in the architecture of the employment policies of the European Union (Bröckling, 2015, p.11), it was not until the GFC that the concepts of self-entrepreneurship and social enterprises were definitively fostered as a solution to the high unemployment rates among European young people. The way in which the introductory paragraph of the previously quoted Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan defines the GFC —as a catalyst, even an accelerator— provides further evidence of this ‘governmental investment’ in particular understandings of entrepreneurship:

Before the on-going economic and financial crisis, the European economy faced structural challenges to its competitiveness and growth, and obstacles to entrepreneurship. Many of these persist, but the crisis has also been a catalyst for deep change and restructuring. (Op. Cit. p.3)

In other words, the concepts, the core ideas and the objectives of these policies were already evident before the GFC happened, but it seems that they couldn’t have been fully developed and implemented until the GFC and subsequent EU sanctioned austerity measures definitively altered the previous labour market regulations or shrunk the functions of the Welfare State —I´ll develop this ideas further in the next post. A closer look to how the notions of self-entrepreneur and social-enterprises have landed in the Basque Country might help to ground these reflections.

Forced Landings of concepts and measures: The Basque Country and Entrepreneurship

Two of the multiple problems that the EU is facing are continuing high unemployment rates, and employment precarity among young people. In the case of Spain, these indicators were scandalously high during the GFC that began in 2008, especially for the young (Eurofound, 2015).

Youth (15-29) unemployment rates (%) evolution by country. Compilation based on Eurostat (2017) and Basque Youth Observatory (2017).

According to Eurostat (2017), the rate of youth unemployment (in the 15 to 29 age range) in Spain reached its peak of 42.4% in 2013. In 2016, the youth unemployment rate of 33.3% was, along with other Mediterranean countries, still one of the highest in Europe, over twice that of the EU-28 average. In the case of the Basque Country, these rates were lower. According to the Basque Youth Observatory, while the peak of youth unemployment was reached in 2014 with a rate of 29.5%, in 2017 it dropped to 15.1%. It is also worth noting that even though the unemployment rates in Spain’s are lower nowadays, the temporary employment rate in 2016 stood at 57.4%, the highest in Europe, in contrast to the EU-28 average of 32.5% (Eurostat, 2017).

The Spanish government transferred responsibility for policies affecting young people or employment matters to the Autonomous Communities —including the Basque Country and Catalonia— but the central government still acts as a coordinator and proponent of the EU employment public policy initiatives, especially in terms of active employment policies. Nevertheless, in regions such as the Basque Country it is quite easy to find how the local policies and programs about entrepreneurship and social enterprises closely align with the directives of the European Union without any mediation of the state government. The Basque Country Government’s general plan, based in its own Law for the Support of Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses, has been recently updated until 2020 with a budget of 295 million euros. The determination of the Government with regard to the broad notion of entrepreneurship we have previously mentioned is clear, even though, according to GEM, in 2016 the Basque Country had one of the worst TEA (Total Entrepreneurial Activity) scores of the last decades at 3.3% (Hoyos et al. 2017).

The low rate of entrepreneurs in Basque Country contrasts with the massive competitions for different positions in the Basque Government Institutions as officials and civil servants. Bilbao Exhibition Centre, photography by Alfredo Aldai/EFE.

The Basque Government seems to be concerned and aware both of such ‘resistances’, and that it is competing with other European regions for this niche —and the resulting European funding. As a result, the last update for the entrepreneurship program has been presented with the main goal of positioning Basque Country as a privileged place to create and develop all kinds of new entrepreneurial initiatives.

The current program involves most of the local administrative institutions and a wide range of public and private agents. It includes, among others; A) conventional economic measures focused on facilitating the access to the market, to financing and to investments; B) more flexible taxation and regulations; and C), a wide range of support programs, services and infrastructures. However, is worth noting that in regard to the non-economic measures, special effort is made in all educational and training institutions (implying young people) on fostering a positive attitude towards entrepreneurs and the values of entrepreneurship. Overall, and in line with the European directives, the main intention of these policies is to ‘recover, generate and reinforce an entrepreneurial culture through generating an ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’. In this sense, it is interesting just how the memorandum of the current law builds a narrative that forces an essentialist notion of (Basque) identity to fit with the contemporary values and characteristics of entrepreneurship:

The Basque Country has always been a land of enterprising people. The most outstanding values of these have been the desire for innovation, the creation of added value and openness to the world. With their ambition they managed to make the Basque Country one of the most prosperous areas of the State and of Europe. Entrepreneurs have been present in the history of the Basque Country since historiography exists. Since the Middle Ages, Basques and Basques have demonstrated their entrepreneurial spirit in sectors such as iron-works, mechanics and international trade, among others. [Translated from the Law for the Support of Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses]

In this frame, and mainly focused on enterprise generation, social entrepreneurship appears as a variation of entrepreneurship linked to the notion of social innovation. Even though the earlier Basque Government program partially reproduces the European Commission one, a lower level in the Basque administration structure gives some hints about how it is understood and applied. A quick reference to the Provincial Council of Bizkaia 2017 call for funding innovative and social enterprises, shows that all of them have to acquire, if not the form, at least the outcomes and ‘attitudes’ of a conventional enterprise. Some of the limitations of this sort of approach have been sketched elsewhere in this blog. But I would like to stress that beyond the social values that some social-enterprises might look for (justice, equality, integration, sustainability, etc.), they are mainly valued and judged by the ‘survival’ criteria settled by the market. Or if not, they will be evaluated as potential substitutes or externalized ‘resources’ of the Welfare State. For instance, one of the indicators to measure the social impact of the social enterprises in a call of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia 2017 is quite clear in this regard:

“Administration savings for the employment created in people at risk of exclusion” (translated from Op. cit)

In this sense, in a very explicit way, we see particular dimensions of the moral economies of social enterprise come into view – something that the team wrote about in a previous blog post. We see both the moral obligation that governments create for young people to be and become entrepreneurial. And, alongside this, we see an ‘investment’ in the promise of social enterprise framed by a sense that social enterprises, in taking on these responsibilities, will enable ‘savings’ in the State’s obligations to develop and administer labour market programs and welfare payments. I will return to some of these concerns in my next post.


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BRÖCKLING, U. 2016. The Entrepreneurial Self. Fabricating a New Type of Subject, London, SAGE.

EUROFOUND. 2015. Youth entrepreneurship in Europe: Values, attitudes, policies, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union.

EUROSTAT. 2017. ‘Youth unemployment rate by sex, age and country of birth’, accessed at Eurostat on March 30, 2018.

FOUCAULT, M. 1980. Power/Knowledge. Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, New York, Pantheon Books.

FOUCAULT, M. 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collége de France, 1978-79, New-York, Palgrave-Macmillan.

FOUCAULT, M. 2009. Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-78, London, Palgarve-MacMilllan.

SAIZ, M., HOYOS, J., GONZÁLEZ-PERNÍA, J., PEÑA, I., GONZÁLEZ, N., GUERRERO, M. & URBANO, D. 2017. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Comunidad Autónoma del País Vasco. Informe Ejecutivo 2016, Bilbao, Publicaciones de la Universidad de Deusto.

KELLY, P. 2013. The Self as Enterprise: Foucault and the Spirit of 21st Century Capitalism, Surrey, Ashgate/Grower.

KEUNE, M., & SERRANO, A. 2014. Deconstructing Flexicurity and Developing Alternative Approaches, London, Routledge.

LATOUR, B. & WOOLGAR, S. 1986. Laboratory life : the construction of scientific facts, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.

LAW, J. 2009. Seeing Like a Survey. Cultural Sociology, 3, 239-256.

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SERRANO, A. & MARTÍN, P. 2017. From ‘Employab-ility’ to ‘Entrepreneurial-ity’ in Spain: youth in the spotlight in times of crisis. Journal of Youth Studies, 20, 798-821.

Supporting young people’s transitions through community engagement programs: Building the Global Youth Social Enterprise Network GYSEN

As we have discussed in previous posts, social enterprises develop a social ‘mission’ which often includes a focus on community and belonging and, as such, have been identified as a way of engaging marginalised young people and supporting their transition into the workforce through ethical, socially aware frameworks (Humphery, 2010; Kelly et al, 2015). This post is about research we recently carried out in the US (September – October in 2017).

We looked at how and why community concerns are taken up by the social enterprise sector, and how young people are encouraged to imagine their future, their sense of self and employment prospects in relation to community concerns.

First of all, we would like to say a big thank you to those organisations in the US who participated in the research project, Supporting young people’s transitions through community engagement programs. The aim of this  project was to establish relationships, which we hope will be long lasting, and to understand how social enterprises and community organisations in the US engage young people in education and employment programs.

During this research the need for an international youth focused network for social enterprise and community organisations became apparent. We have responded by developing the Global Youth Social Enterprise Network (twitter @GlobalYSEN) which will combine research and practise based knowledge transfers.

We also looked at how organisations build social justice and community concerns into their education and employment programs for young people. We think of this in terms of two key questions:

  1. How do people participating in and managing social enterprise and community programs engage with community?
  2. How is community engagement connected to employment, training and young people’s transitions?

Interviews were carried out by Dr Perri Campbell in September and October while she was visiting at the University of California, Berkeley. Perri was hosted by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and supported by Associate Director Christine Trost.

The interviews carried out have provide a great deal of knowledge about the transitional programs offered to young people on the West Coast, and how community engagement and social justice issues play a significant role in their design. Perri and the team will be working with and analysing this interview material over the next year, as we begin carrying out interviews in Australia with social enterprise organisations.

At this stage it is clear that community concerns, politics and history, culture and social justice issues provide organisations with a range of resources and reasons for doing what they do. Social justice missions, for instance, supporting the mental and physical health and well-being of young people, are communicated to participants through the environment created by organisations. Different programs engage with their community particular ways to address specific issues. This type of engagement relies on a deep understanding of complex and inter-twined social, economic, class, race, and gendered issues.

Many of the organisations we spoke to shared a strong interest in the creative arts and music. While job readiness programs were available to participants, pathways into musical and digital industries were popular.

We will discuss these research experiences further over the next couple of posts. 


A farewell Invitational Conference and Pedagogy in the Pub Event

Connecting Ed-U-cation

Dear colleagues

To mark the closing of the Centre for Education, Training and Work in the Asian Century, the School of Education is hosting an invitational conference and special Pedagogy in the Pub event on the 12th and 13th of December.

We invite you to register to attend:

The Politics of Gender, Sexuality and Pedagogy in a ‘Post-Truth World’

This conference – and Pedagogy in the Pub event on Tuesday evening – offers scholars, activists, and pedagogues the opportunity to engage with the challenges of the ‘post-truth’ world for people of diverse genders, sexes, and sexualities. A post-truth world is one in which “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Washington Post). Presentations are by invitation but we welcome you to join us for the event as a non-presenting participant. Places are limited to 50 so register now!

Keynote speakers:

sj miller…

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Situational Analysis – Part 1

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We never write on a blank page, but always one that has been written on (de Certeau cited in Lather 2001b: 477-478).

Throughout our project we will use situational analysis to take into account the different ways in which social enterprise organisations are shaped and shape themselves, the environment in which this occurs and how structures, systems and people play different roles in this process. This approach will also enable us to account for the ways in which programs for young people are formed.

So, what is situational analysis? Clarke (2005) tells us that situational analysis is a research tool which enables us to further understand the context in which we live our lives, how we are shaped and shape our selves and our social environment. It is a form of mapping that helps us to look beyond individual and collective human actors to take into account nonhuman material cultural objects. As Clarke (2005: 146) says, it’s necessary in qualitative research…

… Because we and the people and things we choose to study are all routinely both producing and awash in seas of discourses, analyzing only individual and collective human actors no longer suffices for many qualitative projects. Increasingly, historical, visual, narrative, and other discourse materials and nonhuman material cultural objects of all kinds must be included as elements of our research and subjected to analysis because they are increasingly understood/interpreted as both constitutive of and consequential for the phenomena we study.

The idea is that as researchers we are able to better account for the different locations our information comes from and the different forms it takes (documents, media, televisual material, interviews). This means that we can use situational analysis to understand different forms of information – for example, historical, social, geographical, digital information – in one study. This would be a ‘multisite’ study or research project. The idea is that situational analysis can help qualitative researchers to develop new methods, across the sciences, humanities and professional fields (Clarke, 2005: 146).

Clarke (2005: 146) calls this ‘qualitative analysis after the postmodern turn’, in which postmodernism is understood as the historical, theoretical shift towards understanding people, their experiences and their social environment through the lens of discourse analysis and relationships of power. Discourse analysis allows us to imagine that, as human beings  we are already and always will be engaged in an ongoing, complex, often contradictory process of becoming who we are, and this occurs in relation to other people, social institutions, social rules and regulations, constructs of gender, class, ethnicity, race and other personal and the professional power relationships we are involved in.

Understanding these different influences and elements is the work of bricoleurs:

Bricoleurs assemble project-appropriate tool kits from a broad repertoire of available concepts and approaches—selecting what they believe are “the right tools for the job.” We need to keep in mind, of course, that the “tools,” the “job,” and the “rightness” are all constructions, always already emergent and changing (Clarke, 2005: 147).

In the context of our project situational analysis will allow us to use diverse approaches and analytical tools, and take into account different types of discourse – particularly policy discourse, (i.e the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy) academic discourse (i.e. ‘moral economies’) and social enterprise discourse.

Grounded theory 

Clarke uses the terms ‘situational analysis’ and ‘grounded theory’ together to describe her approach. This is because situational analysis builds on grounded theory. Grounded theory involves the construction of theory from rigorous data analysis. It sounds and is quite complicated but it’s aim is to help close the gap between theory and empirical research or the things, people and stories researchers encounter in real life.

The goal of grounded theorists is to develop theory which is more than just description (Goulding, 2002: 42). Goulding adapts the theory of management and business practices, and says it should:

1. Enable prediction and explanation of behaviour

2. Be useful in theoretical advances in sociology 

3. Be applicable in practice 

4. Provide a perspective on behaviour 

5. Guide and provide a style for research on particular areas of behaviour 

6. Provide clear enough categories and hypothesis so that crucial ones can be verified in present and future research (Goulding, 2002: 43).

It is the combination of the groundedness of interpretation with the systematic handling of data that makes grounded theory and situational analysis robust approaches in qualitative research (Clarke, 2011: 147).

To clarify, this formulation of theory shouldn’t be interpreted as discovering some pre-existing ‘reality’, rather we can understand truths as ‘enacted’ and ‘theories’ as interpretations.

… interpretations are temporarily constraint. They should always be seen as provisional and subject to future elaboration, and it should be recognised that they are limited in time; they may become outdated or in need of qualification (Goulding, 2011: 43).

These research methodologies are about keeping an open mind and taking into account the many different elements of our environment when trying to understand particular things. As we attempt to understand how social enterprise organisations support the well-being, education and training and work opportunities of marginalised young people we will need to take into account:

  • the social and geographical location of the social enterprise organisation;
  • the history and structure of the organisation;
  • what role arts-based programs play, and are intended to play, in young peoples transitions;
  • how stakeholders and young people understand the organisation and their role;
  • what type of artistic practice these programs engage;
  • the role non-human material cultural objects play for the people involved;
  • the affective environment that is generated by the organisation and those involved.


Clarke, A. (2005) Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Postmodern Turn, Sage: California.

Goulding, C. (2002) Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide for Management, Business and Market Researchers, Sage: London.

Call for participants: Australian Social Enterprise Project, RMIT and Melbourne University

Are you a stakeholder/manager/coordinator/teacher in an Australian Social Enterprise? Do you run programs that have an arts (fashion, dance, visual arts, creative writing, crafts, drama) component? We invite you to participate in our research project funded by the Australian Research Council.

Participation will involve a one-on-one interview of approximately 1 hour  (or less) in length with a member of the project team (listed in the above flyer).

The purpose of the research is to understand how social enterprises engaged in arts activities manage education, training and work transitions, and support the health and well-being of young people.

Please contact Perri Campbell for further information at



Call for US participants: supporting young people’s transitions through community engagement program

The purpose of this research is to understand how Social Enterprises and Community Organisations build social justice/community concerns into their education and employment programs for young people, and how young people shape future career aspirations with their community in mind.

We are looking for people located on the West Coast of the US to participate in our research project.

If you part of a social enterprise or community organization that offers programs to young people or you are participating in a program and are interested in sharing your experiences, or would like more information please email

Participation will involve a one-on-one interview of approximately 1 hour (or less) in length with Dr Perri Campbell (RMIT University, Australia), Visiting Scholar at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI), the University of California Berkeley, between the 1st of October and 30th of November, 2017.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.


Research Fellow

ARC Discovery Project: Arts Based Social Enterprise and Marginalised Young People’s Transitions, School of Education.

Twitter: @Perri_Campbell and Social Enterprise Project @YouthASE


Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector – FASES

Social enterprises are organisations that:

  • Are led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit;
  • Trade to fulfil their mission;
  • Derive a substantial portion of their income from trade;
  • and Reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus in the fulfilment of their mission (Barraket et al, 2016a: 3).

In this post we have a look at the Social Traders and Swinburne University reports on the ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector’ (FASES) research project. As we mentioned in our previous post there are a number of factors that support and limit the growth of the social enterprise (SE) sector in Australia, and the development and impact of SEs. The following summary from the 2016 FASES report provides a good snapshot of what’s going on in the Australian SE sector: 

Overall findings

(Barraket et al, 2016b: 9).

In their 2010 FASES report Barraket et al (2010: 8) argued that little was known about Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector due in part to a lack of self-identifying among SEs; not all SEs operating as such labelled themselves as such. They said:

… it is clear that the language of social enterprise does not yet have distinct meaning for many civil society organisations and businesses in this country; more than 150 organisations commenced the survey and were filtered out on the basis that they were either not for profits that did not trade or profit maximising businesses that were not led by public or community benefit (Barraket et al, 2010: 36).

SEs also take many different forms and operate under different legal structures which means they are not always visible in the same ways as businesses in the private sector. Since 2010 the FASES project has identified a number of key facts and defining qualities illuminating the SE sector.

According to the 2010 and 2016 Full Reports (Barraket et al, 2010: 3 and Barraket et al, 2016a: 3) there are more than 20,000 SE operating in Australia with diverse missions and beneficiaries. The most popular mission identified in the report was:

… creating meaningful employment opportunities for people from a specific group, and developing new solutions to social, cultural, economic or environmental problems.

Interestingly, this is different from the 2010 report findings which identified ‘creating opportunities for people to participate in their community’ as the most popular mission (Barraket et al, 2016a: 5). The growing interest in employment is no surprise given the growing unemployment rate in Australia, which particularly affects young people. The Trading Economics website reports a decrease in the youth unemployment rate between May and April of 2017, however young people are enduring the unwanted effects and consequences of a lack of employment options and meaningful full time work.

Almost one-third of Australian young people are unemployed or underemployed, the highest level in 40 years, according to a report released on Monday.

The rate of underemployment – now at 18% – has become an entrenched feature of the youth labour market, according to the Generation Stalled report, commissioned by the Brotherhood of St Laurence (Davidson, 2017 March).


A lack of full-time job prospects and an increasingly tense world has left a generation of Australia’s young people feeling bleak about their future (Clarke, 2017 February).

SEs reflect social and economic concerns as they operate mostly in local and regional markets with the aim of fulfilling missions that resonate at local and regional levels. There are fewer SEs that operate in international markets or aim to address international issues (Barraket et al, 2016a: 4). This finding was reflected in our own modest search of Arts based social enterprises in Australia. We found that when SEs do focus their attention on international issues, they often adopt a ‘Fair Trade’ ethic and source or support the import of handcrafted goods to be sold in Australia. Rarely were there programs (i.e. Transitional Labour Market Programs) attached to these SEs.

Similarly to 2010, and mirroring the mainstream economy, the sector includes small, medium and large enterprises, with the majority in our sample being small. The 2016 study again finds social enterprises are involved in all forms of economic production, including retail, wholesale, and manufacturing. However, they operate primarily within the service economy, with 68% of the sample providing services for a fee (Barraket et al, 2016a: 4).

In 2010 organisations participating in the FASES research project were asked to report on their income and expenditure (for the 2007-2008 financial year). The reported annual turnover ranged from zero to $68 million (with a total reported turnover within the sample of 168 organisations of $477 193 850). In 2016 that annual turnover ranged from zero to $199 million (from a sample of 189 enterprises) (Barraket et ala, 2016: 22).

In terms of growth and development opportunities, the FASES 2016 data shows a growth in ‘new entrants to the field, with 33.8% of the study’s sample being between two and five years old’. While development opportunities lie in: ‘social procurement; quasi-market development; and opportunities to grow impacts through supply chain development’ (Barraket et al, 2016a: 3). These modes of development are supported by the Victorian Social Enterprise Strategy which gives particular attention to social procurement and the ways in which SEs can contribute to and fit into the market economy. We discussed our concerns with this trend in earlier posts

Finally, they identified a number external and internal factors constraining the growth of social business and impact in Australia. Limiting external factors include:

  1. a patchy ecosystem for social enterprise start-up and growth, including limited geographic spread of intermediaries and insufficient opportunities for peer to peer learning and development;
  2. the continuing piecemeal awareness of and support for social enterprise development by Australian governments;
  3. and, limited public awareness of social enterprises and their work.
  4. the lack of suitable funding for SEs at different stages of development (Barraket et al, 2016a: 5).

In terms of internal constraints the 2016 report identified:

  1. organisational governance as both a key enabler and a key inhibitor
    of social enterprise performance.
  2. Accessing suitably skilled staff and adapting workforce profiles as
    organisations grew and changed was also identified as a problem (Barraket et al, 2016a: 4).

These barriers have consequences for the Impact social enterprises make, that is the effectiveness of their work and how they are able to carry out their mission.


Supporting the Potential of Social Enterprises 

The 2016 report analysis suggests a number of ways in which the SES can be supported in pursuit of their missions and social impact. These following recommendations are informed by workshops with SEs:

1. Policy development

When asked about how the SE sector in Australia could be supported and the role of the government, more than 80% of respondents thought that government policy support would create new opportunities and generate growth. Activating SE though ‘traditional procurement laws of government’ was suggested (Barraket et al, 2016b: 15).

2. Building a more cohesive ecosystem

Better support during the start up phase was called for which would include: greater availability of intermediaries; more opportunities for peer-to-peer learning; cohesive and continuing support from the Australian Government; greater public awareness of social enterprises and their work (Barraket et al, 2016b: 16).

3. Developing appropriate and accessible forms of finance

Many respondents called for better, more suitable financial support at different stages of development. Because of their location some SEs are not able to access funding, particularly those outside metropolitan areas.

(Barraket et al, 2016a: 9)

The right financial support at the right time can make a big difference (Barraket et al, 2016b: 17).

… philanthropy appears to be playing a proportionately more significant – albeit still relatively small – role in financially supporting social enterprises, particularly those in start-up development since 2010. This may suggest a growing awareness of social enterprise by philanthropy, and the extension of some partnerships between philanthropy and not for profit organisations that are now exploring social enterprise as an option for increasing their impacts or improving their financial viability (Barraket et al, 2016a: 32).

4. Impact measurement tools

While impact measurement is largely regarded as a contested and complex issues for SEs, Barraket et al (2016: 18) suggest that more accessible, comparable and affordable impact measurement tools are needed to help articulate the social impact of SEs (Barraket et al, 2016b: 18).

Additional survey research suggests the costs of undertaking impact measurement are prohibitive for many social enterprises (Barraket et al, 2016a: 31).

Continuing lack of convention around measuring social impacts, and lack of  availability of affordable options to do this work, was a frequently cited constraint on social enterprises both understanding and extending their positive impacts; practice in this regard appears to have remained stable over the last two waves of FASES.

Major opportunities identified for increasing social (or environmental) impacts of social enterprises included ethical supply chain development – including between social enterprises – and replication or, less frequently cited, scaling up of social enterprises (Barraket et al, 2016a: 32).



Barraket, J., M. O. Collyer,  and Anderson, H. (2010) ‘Finding Australia’s Social
Enterprise Sector: Final Report’, Social Traders and the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies June, 2010. Available from:

Barraket, J., Mason, C., and Blain, B. (2016a) ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise
Sector 2016: Final Report’, Social Traders and the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne June, 2016. Available from:

Barraket, J., Mason, C., and Blain, B. (2016b) ‘Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise
Sector 2016: Analysis’, Social Traders and the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne June, 2016. Available from:

Clarke, C. (2017) ‘Millennial survey shows youth feeling aggrieved, frustrated by the way country is being run’, ABC News, 8 February 2017. Available from:

Davidson, H. (2017) ‘Third of Australian youth have no job or are underemployed, report finds’, The Guardian, March 2017. Available from: