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Integration and segregation for social enterprise employees: A relational micro‐geography

Geographers have highlighted the role of spaces and places in realising or discouraging social integration for marginalised or “dis/abled” citizens. Social enterprises, widely promoted by governments, aim to act as unique socio-commercial spaces that can up-skill citizens for work through technical and social experiences. Social enterprises have also been proposed to add value by fostering wellbeing realisation, but this has been difficult to measure. Here, we extend extant knowledge linking social enterprises and social integration (an aspect of wellbeing) by providing a “micro-geography” of how one social enterprise contributes to social integration in an Australian regional city. Visual summaries of integration are built by mixing methods of observation, interviews and go-along interviews, in a GIS. Our analysis shows that relational features of different workspaces within Work Integration Social Enterprises support integration to realise, but that with other relational features, segregation can occur. Confirming previous qualitative studies, we map and explore how social enterprises help to realise encounters in work and social domains outside the social enterprise and in the community. Micro-geographies of workspaces and communities show great potential for revealing where social phenomena occur (and do not occur). Most valuably, via layers of mixed data, they help to expose causal factors – an element that has long been elusive in studies of social enterprise. Our study supports work of other geographers showing how places and spaces help social integration of disadvantaged citizens. More broadly, the micro-geographical analysis affords potential for organisations and communities to understand where and how to generate greater social integration.

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