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Family Entrepreneurship in Communities: Social Context and the Creation of Social Value

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy

Guest Editors:
James Cunningham (, Robert Gordon University, UK
Claire Seaman (, Queen Margaret University, UK

Family firms are found to be more attuned to the social issues of their immediate surroundings; a facet often manifest in prosocial behaviours orientated around their social values and the values of social stakeholders in their environment (Van Gils et al., 2014). Thus the context of family firms, from the spatial and institutional to the social, is an informative factor in business activity, leading family firm researchers to acknowledge the interaction of family firms and regional development (Stough et al., 2015). The outcome of this interaction can have many localised benefits, for example in the generation of employment opportunity, economic growth (Memili et al., 2015), and also in the creation of social value through the generation and preservation of socioemotional wealth in the business (Berrone et al., 2012).

The acknowledgment of family firms’ interaction with their localised environment is part of a broader move in the entrepreneurship literature to understand how situational context informs both the nature and the characteristics of enterprise activity. In particular, while institutional contexts are fairly well-considered, the community context remains an area of fruitful development for our continued understanding of the entrepreneurial event (Jennings et al., 2013). A variety of conceptual lenses can be used in the exploration of such a context, from focusing on temporal and social dynamics of business roles and networks in their locale (Welter, 2011), to examining the belonging and meaning attributed to place (Anderson & Gaddefors, 2016). 

Many of the recent attempts to understand the interaction of family firms and their context highlight the importance of social structure and social relationship both within and out-with the business organisation (Zellweger et al., 2018). The unique aspects of family firms is often said to make them more able to benefit from localised resources and networks (Bird & Wennberg, 2014). More critically though, examination of community affiliations is found to provide a refreshing view on how embedded ties may be considered both positive and negative, and may indeed change over time (Mani & Durand, 2018), with suggestions that family firms behave in a similar way to many community-based businesses. Further, as part of this more community-based perspective, the characteristics of ethnic minority enterprises also relate directly to the community context of many family firms. When the influence of family is integrated with communities of value-laden and culturally embedded expectations (Vorley, 2007), there are many implications for the impact on business activity, but also for the localised impact the business itself may have on its surroundings (Jones & Ram, 2012).

Given the relatively recent turn to acknowledge the importance of community context in understanding family firm activity, a special issue exploring both the impact of community context on the family business and the impact of the family business on its surrounding community will aid in broadening knowledge and provide a platform for future development of the field. This special issue will publish both theoretical and empirical pieces which further our understanding of the family firm in its community context. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the role of the family firm in localised economic growth and development? What are the outcomes for the surrounding community of family firm activity?
  • In what ways do theories from the regional developments and sociological literature help us understand the social impact of family firms?
  • How is regional employment affected by the presence of family firms?
  • How do family firms and their surrounding communities interact and engage with one another? In ways does this impact on the social value created by the firm?
  • What are the effects of ethnic, cultural and societal norms in the community on family firms? And concurrently, what impact does family firm activity have on the social norms of the community?
  • How does the presence of family firms in the community impact on other entrepreneurial activity in the area?

Papers due: November 1st, 2019

Submission guidelines: Please submit through the JEC ScholarOne submission system, making sure to choose the correct Special Issue title when submitting. For more information, visit JEC's Author Guidelines.

Anderson, A., & Gaddefors, J. (2016). Entrepreneurship as a community phenomenon; reconnecting meanings and place. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 28(4), 504-518.
Berrone, P., Cruz, C., & Gomez-Mejia, L. R. (2012). Socioemotional wealth in family firms: Theoretical dimensions, assessment approaches, and agenda for future research. Family Business Review, 25(3), 258-279.
Bird, M., & Wennberg, K. (2014). Regional influences on the prevalence of family versus non-family start-ups. Journal of Business Venturing, 29(3), 421-436.
Jennings, P. D., Greenwood, R., Lounsbury, M. D., & Suddaby, R. (2013). Institutions, entrepreneurs, and communities: A special issue on entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 28(1), 1-9.
Jones, T., and M. Ram. 2012. “Revisiting… Ethnic-Minority Businesses in the United Kingdom: A Review of Research and Policy Developments.” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 30 (6): 944-950
Liñán, F., Moriano, J. A., & Jaén, I. (2016). Individualism and entrepreneurship: Does the pattern depend on the social context?. International Small Business Journal, 34(6), 760-776.
Mani, D., & Durand, R. (2018). Family Firms in the Ownership Network: Clustering, Bridging, and Embeddedness. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, doi: 1042258718796082.
Memili, E., Fang, H., Chrisman, J. J., & De Massis, A. (2015). The impact of small-and medium-sized family firms on economic growth. Small Business Economics, 45(4), 771-785.
Stough, R., Welter, F., Block, J., Wennberg, K., & Basco, R. (2015). Family business and regional science:“Bridging the gap”. Journal of Family Business Strategy, 6(4), 208-218.
Van Gils, A., Dibrell, C, Neubaum, D.O. & Craig, J.B. (2014). Social Issues in the Family Enterprise, Family Business Review, 27(3), 193-205.
Vorley, T. (2007). Ethnic Entrepreneurship: A Theoretical Framework, In: Handbook of Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship: A Co-Evolutionary View on Resource Management, by L. P. Dana (ed.), 30-41, London, UK: Edward Elgar.
Welter, F. (2011). Contextualizing entrepreneurship—conceptual challenges and ways forward. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(1), 165-184.
Zellweger, T. M., Chrisman, J. J., Chua, J. H., & Steier, L. P. (2018). Social structures, social relationships, and family firms, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, doi: 1042258718792290.