Individual Case Studies

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The case studies for this proposal were selected to help our understanding of the broader phenomenon of social business. A multiple-case study approach is useful in so far as it captures the varying manifestations of this phenomenon, and therefore provides multiple sources of evidence for understanding social business (Naumes & Naumes, 1999; Yin, 2003). Case study research is of particular utility in real-life contexts in so far as the cases allow the researchers to explore the intersection between the setting and the broader context in which it operates (VanWynsberghe & Khan, 2007). Each case study is unique and self-contained, but each adds to our understanding of the broader phenomenon of social business. Case studies are also useful in building theory, as proposed in the fourth objective of this study (Eisenstadt, 1989).

The 13 case studies are intended to be distinct and to reflect differing manifestations of social businesses. In addition to their distinctiveness, they were selected according to the following criteria: a) all of the organizations worked either in total or in part with people on the social margins in the GTA, but with differing groups. These included: persons with intellectual disabilities; psychiatric disabilities, homeless, recent immigrants, social housing residents, participants in micro credit programs, including one targeted to Aboriginal entrepreneurs. b) An effort was made to include businesses in differing forms of service – restaurants, housing, pottery, childcare, catering. c) All fit within at least one of the three categories of social businesses –social enterprises, co-operatives, and micro lending. Some organizations fit within more than one category, for example, a credit union with a micro loan program. The social enterprises that were not nonprofits were embedded within a nonprofit, usually with a charitable registration. d) We included a variety of different participation circumstances – training organizations, organizations with permanent employers, some with the targeted participants working full-time and others part-time. e) They also ranged in age from recent to 30 years.