An empirical study of governance in Leisure Trust social enterprises


Downloads per month over past year

Argent, Jonathan (2021). An empirical study of governance in Leisure Trust social enterprises. University of Birmingham. D.B.A.

Text - Redacted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (1MB) | Preview


A great deal has been written about the theories of governance particularly agency, stewardship, stakeholder, resource dependency and managerial hegemony theories. More recently, scholars have reflected on the opportunities and benefits that a multi-theoretical approach may bring to framing corporate governance, including the governance of non-profit social enterprises.

The work of Cornforth (2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012) has been notably influential in this regard. Cornforth argues that the main theoretical perspectives on corporate governance when taken individually only illuminate discrete aspects of the Board’s role and are rather one dimensional. He goes on to argue that a paradox perspective which draws on multiple theoretical standpoints offers a more realistic and pragmatic approach to understanding the governance of non-profit organisations.

This approach has been further developed by Professor Naomi Chambers and colleagues and tested through an empirical study in the hospice sector (2010), the outcome of which has been the development of engagement theory (2012). This extends and advances Cornforth’s multi-theoretical standpoint, comprising a triadic position of high engagement, high trust and high challenge and drawing together the applicable parts of more established theories.

Despite these advances in the field a gap still exists in understanding the governance practices of Leisure Trust social enterprises and whether they recognise and adopt a multi-theoretical approach to governance practices. The aim of this research is therefore to draw upon and expand the work of Cornforth, reflecting also on Chambers’ study, in order to test the application of a multi-theoretical approach for Leisure Trust social enterprises, an under-researched sector of the social enterprise domain. The research applies a pragmatic research philosophy and an abductive approach to theory development.

The evidence from this study is that the theories identified by Cornforth, when taken individually, do only illuminate one aspect of a social enterprise Board’s role and are rather one dimensional. This research has also confirmed Cornforth’s proposition that a multi-theoretical perspective offers a more realistic approach to social enterprise governance, albeit that this is paradoxical.

The research findings suggest that governance practices appear to be largely static and reactive without any formal protocols for review. Furthermore, it was noted that an external stimulus, including a crisis or impending crisis, often provided the catalyst for any governance review. Finally, it became clear that the strategic planning undertaken by the case study Trusts did not include a review of their governance systems. As such, links are not made between the organisations’ future strategic and tactical plans and the governance oversight.

A key contribution from the research is that governance practices in Leisure Trusts should be more dynamic, embracing paradoxes and explicitly linked to the organisation’s strategic planning and forward focus. A contribution to practice is that a good practice guide be developed to provide Leisure Trust boards and their senior management teams (and social enterprise organisations more widely) with a methodology to become familiar with, and distinguish, the key elements of individual governance theories, together with the potential to connect these theories into a blended multi-theoretical approach within a strategic framework.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > D.B.A.)
Award Type: Doctorates > D.B.A.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Birmingham Business School
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year