Hazenberg, R., Seddon, F. A. and Denny, S. (2012) WISEs: an Anglo-Swedish comparison. Paper presented to: 4th International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC), University of Birmingham, 12-14 September 2012.
Prior research into organisational variance between Swedish and UK businesses found that Swedish businesses operated flatter hierarchical structures, more open (but slower) decision-making processes and utilised greater numbers of stakeholders in delivering organisational aims. However, to date no such comparison has been conducted between UK and Swedish WISEs. This study explored the organisational differences between Swedish and UK WISEs. In total 28 individuals participated across four case-study organisations. The key areas explored were the WISEs’ organisational structures, decision-making process, the types of performance evaluation used and how dependent upon state support each case-study was. Results suggest that there are significant differences between WISEs in the UK and Sweden, with the prevalence of state funding and overt political support for social enterprises in the UK leading to the growth of intermediate labour-market organisations (ILMOs). In Sweden, the research suggests that there is a lack of understanding of social enterprise and a lack of firm financial or political support. This leads Swedish WISEs to access private sector income through trade to a greater degree than their UK counterparts and to operate as ‘social firms’ or ‘worker cooperatives’. Performance evaluation measurement was also a key differentiator between the Swedish and UK WISEs, with the UK WISEs pursuing performance evaluation mainly to fulfil contractual obligations, as opposed to the Swedish WISEs that freely undertook such evaluations. Finally, the organisational structure of the Swedish WISEs was shown to be flatter and more inclusive than the UK WISEs and this led to a more democratic decision-making process, albeit one that was slower