When stigma spills over to organisations: A conversation about how social enterprises can respond to community division

The first event in our Stigma, Organisations, Authenticity, and Reputation (SOAR) seminar series, hosted by the Centre for Corporate Reputation

Paul Tracey, Professor of Innovation & Organisation, Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation, and Neil Stott, Faculty (Professor level) in Management Practice, Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation, were the guest speakers for a seminar hosted by Tom Lawrence, Professor of Strategic Management, as part of the SOAR seminar series.

Social enterprises often work with ‘unpopular’ groups in their communities. In some cases, the stigma attached to these groups can transfer to the organizations that support them. In the seminar, Neil and Paul discussed what happened when a social enterprise in the East of England – Keystone – became stigmatized for providing support services to migrant workers in the area.

Paul was a researcher engaged in a participant observation study at Keystone, while Neil was its Chief Executive. Paul described what he saw when he entered the organization, focusing on the tensions that he observed and the organizational crisis they generated. Neil reflected on his experiences of leading Keystone in this most challenging period, and how he and the leadership responded to the crisis. Building on their experiences, they considered the broader implications of the Keystone story for social purpose organizations that work with marginalized stakeholders.