Venue: LT1 Geoffrey Manton, Manchester Metropolitan UniversityMon 25 March 2019

This talk refers to many years devoted to applied social research on themes that have spanned micro-enterprise, family enterprise, artists’ businesses, voluntary action, welfare service reform, social enterprise, and social innovation. I reflect on some connections that may be obvious or less obvious, some surprises and encounters, and most of all – learning. I look back on my early research about social aspects of enterprise, then rarely studied from either a business or a sociological perspective. Against a background of policy and academic enthusiasm for an ‘enterprising’ society boosted by business start-ups, my colleagues and I contended that the celebrated flexibility of small businesses often represented reinvention of distinctly old ways of working, home-based, gendered and dependent on family work that was rarely remunerated. Unpaid work within and for communities was the central theme my research collaboration with Professor Hardill. My recently published co-edited book based on Horizon 2020 research evaluates – in a sympathetic but critical way – the theory and practice of ‘social investment’ as a new welfare paradigm. At the heart of social investment lies the idea that 21st Century welfare states need to invest in the future by strengthening skills and capacities, beginning in early life. In an unanticipated return to themes from my earlier studies, it emerged that attempts to enact social investment all over Europe rely upon many old and new roles in volunteering, mutual aid, self-provisioning, care-giving and community activism. Perhaps an instance of back to the beginning!