Social enterprise housing supply chains for resource-constrained communities: a complexity lens approach

Publication Name

Supply Chain Management


Purpose: Delivering housing to resource-constrained communities (RCCs) is a complex process beset with difficulties. The purpose of this study is to use a complexity lens to examine the approach taken by a social enterprise (SE) in Australia to develop and manage a housebuilding supply chain for RCCs. Design/methodology/approach: The research team used a longitudinal case study approach from 2017 to 2022, which used mixed methods to understand the phenomenon and gain an in-depth understanding of the complex issues and problem-solving undertaken by an SE start-up. Findings: Balancing mission logic with commercial viability is challenging for an SE. The supply chain solution that evolved accommodated the particulars of geography and the needs of many stakeholders, including the end-user community and government sponsors. Extensive and time-consuming socialisation and customisation led to a successful technical design and sustainable supply chain operation. Practical implications: Analysing supply chain intricacies via a complexity framework is valuable for scholars and practitioners, assisting in designing and developing supply chain configurations and understanding their dynamics. Meeting the housing construction needs of RCCs requires the SE to place societal focus at the centre of the supply chain rather than merely being a system output. The developed business model complements the engineering solution to empower a community-led housing construction supply chain. Originality/value: This longitudinal case study contributes to knowledge by providing rich insights into the roles of SEs and how they develop and operate supply chains to fit with the needs of RCCs. Adding a contextual response dimension to an established complexity framework helped to explain how hybrid organisations balance commercial viability demands with social mission logic by amending traditional supply chain and governance practices. The case provides insights into supply chain configuration, needed changes and potential impacts when an SE as a focal actor inserts into a traditional for-profit construction supply chain.

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