Rebels Without a Cause? Beyond Heroic Social Entrepreneurship

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From Innocence to a Political Future

The grand narrative of social entrepreneurship is everywhere: heroic individuals build innovative solutions to transform the texture of the world’s social fabric.  What have we learned in a decade of emergent debate on the topic?  What are the effects of a topic nobody, be it policy makers, professors, students, or parents, can avoid touching upon one way or another?

A decade ago the topic was eclectically discussed, infusing small circles of dispersed professional communities such as development experts, nonprofit managers, and small elites of foundation visionaries and its beneficiaries.  Today professional communities, career trajectories, and financial and political resources navigate around the topic.

Social entrepreneurship diffused through a multiplicity of linguistic labels.  Definitional roundtables in community gatherings, business school classrooms, grantee evaluations, youth clubs, and even venture capital board roams became spaces to discuss viewpoints on society and entrepreneurship.  Its ambiguous multiplicity served as a neutral and optimistic bandwagon for the many lucky, working or wanting to work in the ‘industry’ of social innovation, to justify their actions.

The innocence of social entrepreneurship, however, is over.  How and where will and should these discussions take place in a decade or so in the future?  The concept needs a reflective debate on its political causes and effects by focusing on the little, more complex stories that are, in our opinion, at the heart of social entrepreneurship, illustrating the inherent tensions that come to the fore in the practical reality of changing the social. To survive, the social entrepreneurship ‘movement’ needs to prove its reflective capacity and work on the political implications inherent in what it proclaims – to be the 21st century engine of societal change.

Those most affected by its signaling is the next generation.  We grow up to become uncynical, myopic followers of an idealistic type of neoliberal dogma that drives how we engage with the social and, even more important, with ourselves and personal life and career trajectories.

The concept’s survival lies in its strength by those who practice, preach, and diffuse the concept in praxis, for years by now, and thus skeptical about its hegemonic forces through its grand, often times superficial, but nevertheless enrolling narrative.

Our approach towards social entrepreneurship incorporates these reflections.   It informs our audiences to develop an understanding of the controversies inherent in social entrepreneurship through learning from those who practice, preach and diffuse the concept.  We, the next generation, develop the small, even more powerful stories we all need to be conscious about in order to change us and the social (and the environment, though conceptually included, often times significantly excluded in social entrepreneurship debates).

Key Source: Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert, 2010, Journal of Enterprising Communities, “The Politics of Narrating Social Entrepreneurship”.

Selected readings:

In the News

David Brooks, New York Times, April 12th 2012, “Sam Spade at Starbucks”.

Lara Galinsky, Harvard Business Review Blog, July 19th 2012, “Not Everyone should be a Social Entrepreneur”.

Gregory Dees, dowser, April 23rd 2012, “David Brooks, Poltics and Social Entrepreneurs”.

Anand Giridharadas, New York Times, July 15th 2011, “Real Change Requires Politics”.

Special Report – Wealth and Philanthropy, The Economist, February 23rd 2006, “The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur”.

Practitioner debate

Jeffrey Bradach, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2010, “Scaling Impact”.

Beth Breeze, Philanthropy UK, June 2008, Review of Michael Edward’s response to Mathew Bishop’s Book Philanthrocapitalism “Just Another Emperor? The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism”.

Roger Martin and Sally Osberg, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2007, “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Defintion”.

(Management/Organizational literature, full bibliograhphy inc multiple disciplinary lenses, download PDF)

Silvia Dorad0 and Marc Ventresca, 2013, Journal of Business Venturing, “Crescive entrepreneurship in complex social problems: Institutional conditions for entrepreneurial engagement”.

Thomas Lawrence, Nelson Philips, and Paul Tracey, 2012, Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Entrepreneurial Education” (Guest Editors of recent Special Issue of Academy of Management Learning and Education “Educating Social Entrepreneurs and Social Innovators”).

Toya Miller and Colleagues, 2012, Academy of Management Review, “Venturing for Others with Heart and Head: How Compassion Encourages Social Entrepreneurship”.

Anne Claire Pache and Filipe Santos, 2012, Academy of Management Journal, “Inside the Hybrid Organizations: Selective Coupdling as a response to Cinflucting Institutional Logics”.

Johanna Mair, Igansi Mart and Marc Ventresca, 2012, Academy of Management Journal, 2012, “Building Inclusive Markets in Rural Bangladesh: How Intermediaries Work Institutional Voids”.

Tina Dacin, Peter Dacin, and Paul Tracey, 2011, Organization Science, “Social Entrepreneurship: A Critique and Future Directions”.

Julie Battilana and Silvia Dorado, 2010, Academy of Management Journal, “Building Sustainable Hybrid Organizations: The Case of Commercial Microfinance Organizations”.

Pascal Dey and Chris Steyaert, 2010, Journal of Enterprising Communities, “The Politics of Narrating Social Entrepreneurship”.

Johanna Mair, Iese Business School Working Paper, 2010, “Social Entrepreneurship – Taking Stock and Looking Ahead”.

Andrew Van de Ven, Harry Sapienza, and Jaume Villanueava, 2008, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, “Entrepreneurial Pursuits of Self- and Collective Interests”.

Johanna Mair and Ernesto Noboa, Iese Business School Working Paper, 2005, “How Intentions to Create a Social Venture are Formed: A Case Study”.

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  1. Pingback: Apply: Huffington Post & Schwab Foundation seek to appoint Student Reporter for its Social Entrepreneurship section | Studentreporter

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