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the Centre for Learning, Social Economy and Work at OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

Business Done Differently

Case Studies

The cases are two-year projects. The objectives of the case studies will be to understand the impact of the participating organization on the participants in the organization and the broader community, the capacity issues it faces, and to help the organization create strategies to address those capacity issues. The case studies will utilize a community-based participatory research approach (Balcazar et al., 2005; Jason et al., 2004; Marsick & Gephart, 2003; Minkler & Wallerstein, 2003; Reason & Bradbury, 2007; Stoecker, 2005) that involves working with the organizations to address issues raised through the research process. To accomplish the latter, the results of the case studies will be discussed at annual symposia in which the research team for the case study will work with the broader alliance to help create strategies to improve capacity.

The research team for each case will consist of a university researcher, a graduate student research assistant, and a community partner from the organization that is being studied. For each case, time release is budgeted for a representative of the community partner organization so that they can be active participants in the research process. The graduate students are receiving a research experience and, in some cases, this experience will lead to theses.


Individual Case Studies

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.

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