The Search for Social Entrepreneurship

The Search for Social Entrepreneurship

PAUL C. LIGHT
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 295
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt6wph39
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  • Book Info
    The Search for Social Entrepreneurship
    Book Description:

    Research on social entrepreneurship is finally catching up to its rapidly growing potential. InThe Search for Social Entrepreneurship, Paul Light explores this surge of interest to establish the state of knowledge on this growing phenomenon and suggest directions for future research. Light begins by outlining the debate on how to define social entrepreneurship, a concept often cited and lauded but not necessarily understood. A very elemental definition would note that it involves individuals, groups, networks, or organizations seeking sustainable change via new ideas on how governments, nonprofits, and businesses can address significant social problems. That leaves plenty of gaps, however, and without adequate agreement on what the term means, we cannot measure it effectively. The unsatisfying results are apple-to-orange comparisons that make replication and further research difficult. The subsequent section examines the four main components of social entrepreneurship: ideas, opportunities, organizations, and the entrepreneurs themselves. The copious information available about each has yet to be mined for lessons on making social entrepreneurship a success. The third section draws on Light's original survey research on 131 high-performing nonprofits, exploring how they differ across the four key components. The fourth and final section offers recommendations for future action and research in this burgeoning field.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0159-0
    Subjects: Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE DECLARING ASSUMPTIONS
    (pp. 1-29)

    Despite enormous enthusiasm for social entrepreneurship among a new generation of change makers, the field of social entrepreneurship is not yet a field per se. It does not have paths to tenure for its young professors, a growing inventory of quantitative data for its researchers, or a guaranteed source of private or government funding for its institutions. Its elder scholars are anything but elderly, or at least they or we think we are not, and its younger scholars have to balance their interest in social entrepreneurship against work in more respected fields.

    Moreover, the field relies on case studies and...

  6. CHAPTER TWO BUILDING SITES
    (pp. 30-51)

    The study of business and social entrepreneurship has long focused on newness. Study after study has defined entrepreneurship as the creation of a new venture, almost always a small business, family firm, or organization. When new ventures emerge from existing organizations, researchers have sometimes labeled it “intrapreneurship.” It is an easy way to distinguish ideas developed by new ventures from those created by existing organizations.

    Intrapreneurshiphas never quite caught on as a term, however, in part because it is generally defined as a form of entrepreneurship that just happens to occur in a different place. My recent search of...

  7. CHAPTER THREE CREATING STRATEGIES
    (pp. 52-87)

    Looking at the United States over the past fifty years, it is impossible to ignore the dramatic changes produced by social entrepreneurship. Led in part by social benefit organizations, the United States launched massive new programs to reduce disease, increase health care access for children and the elderly, guarantee civil rights, explore space, build an interstate highway system, help the working poor, and improve air and water quality. Some of these endeavors involved single great programs such as Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, and the Clean Air and Water Acts; others involved a string of smaller programs such as increased...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR EXPLORING THE EVIDENCE
    (pp. 88-143)

    The questions are interesting, the territory immense, and the chance to influence social change significant. In a field hungry for rigorous research on what works, scholars have an extraordinary opportunity to make an immediate impact.

    Researchers can do so through every method imaginable—quantitative or qualitative studies, small samples or large, simple statistics or computer modeling, literature reviews or studies of studies, and longitudinal analyses or single-case studies. But researchers can only be a force for good if they let the evidence take them where it will. They must confront the field with hard questions about its assumptions, tough analysis...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE SELECTING CASES
    (pp. 144-168)

    The field of social entrepreneurship has spent much of the past decade telling success stories designed to celebrate, inspire, and teach. Few can read the stories without wondering how they might change the world too, nor can they miss the hopeful lessons learned: harvest exceptional ideas, embrace surprise, adapt and learn, recruit the right people, and above all persevere.

    David Bornstein’sHow to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideasis a best-selling example of the genre. “The purpose of this book is not to exalt a few men or women,” he began, “but to call...

  10. CHAPTER SIX COMPARING ACTIVITY
    (pp. 169-195)

    Investing in social entrepreneurship will always rely on instinct—no matter how precise the plan, investors and entrepreneurs both must make leaps of faith as they move forward. They can produce and evaluate reams of data, but the eventual decision to launch involves a fundamental belief that the new combination has promise. The leap of faith may be informed, but it is still a leap.

    Letting go of rules, taking risks, and trusting others involve a leap of faith. Faith can be deeply grounded in rigorous analysis and tightly linked to past experience, but sooner or later, every innovation involves...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 196-218)

    This study challenges and confirms much of the conventional wisdom about socially entrepreneurial activity and social entrepreneurship. The study may be exploratory in nature, but it does yield strong insights about the nature of socially entrepreneurial activity, especially as it occurs among high-performing social benefit organizations.

    As readers have been warned repeatedly, this study contains both biases and caveats. I cannot claim to have read the entire literature on either business or social entrepreneurship, for example, and clearly I missed important work that might have changed the discussion of the four components of social entrepreneurship, as well as the underlying...

  12. APPENDIX A MISSION AND PURPOSE STATEMENTS FROM THE SAMPLE OF HIGHLY, MODERATELY, AND NOT-TOO ENTREPRENEURIAL SOCIAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS
    (pp. 219-238)
  13. APPENDIX B THE 2006 SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE AND RESPONSES
    (pp. 239-258)
  14. APPENDIX C DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HIGHLY AND NOT-TOO ENTREPRENEURIAL ORGANIZATIONS IN THE 2001 AND 2006 SURVEYS
    (pp. 259-264)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 265-276)
  16. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 277-282)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 283-295)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 296-296)