The question of world vision and action enabled by the enterprise emerges as a crucial question for a critique of social entrepreneurship.
The last empirical chapter deals with this. As just mentioned, Chapter VI analyses what types of actions and thoughts produce, and are produced, by entrepreneurial means. They are concerned with the creation of a future, of a collective future and they claim the responsibility and right to actualise it. In this respect, I consider them as political subjects.
They are political subjects whose weapons seem to be business plans, cash flows and branding strategies. What does this imply? What do these tools make possible and what do they conceal? I argue that social entrepreneurship produces and is produced by a form of post-political action and thought, with a prominent asystemic and experiential character.
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Indeed, the enterprise can only enable local actions, confined within the sphere of individual influence and experience. While this can be an efficient way to tackle the effects of social issues, it will hardly allow us to deal with its deeper causes. In the conclusion of this thesis, I speculate on the significance and consequences of this. Conclusion In this introduction, I have presented the topic, questions, methods and arguments of this research, as well as a brief outline of its structure.
Rather, I am interested in exploring the modes in which an entrepreneurialised and individualised subject — i. It is the very thinkability of this apparent oxymoron that I find interesting - its inherent ambivalence. After all, if sociality, ethics and politics, are subsumed by the logic of capital, the enterprise is one of the few forms that are left to express them. The critical junction is the vision of the world enabled by the enterprise, instead of the sheer dismissal of the whole phenomenon based on its ideological stance. Importantly, the literature that I review in the following pages does not constitute the theoretical framework of this research.
It is rather instrumental in setting the context and providing an insight into the discursive atmosphere that constitutes the field.
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This thesis, rather than adding to the discursive construction of social entrepreneurship, provides a critical reading of it, starting from this very first chapter in which I critically review both the main reflexive narratives and the academic theories of social entrepreneurship. A further objective of this first chapter is to introduce the perspective of this thesis. This stems from the verification of a simple but central fact: despite the manifold nature of social entrepreneurship, a common conceptual core can be identified: this can be provisionally synthetised as the assumption that society can be improved by means of a business.
In conducting this research, I have been driven by the will to unpack this statement, and to explore its practical and theoretical implications. This chapter is divided into three main parts. To begin with, I offer an overview of some of the main actors in the scene of social entrepreneurship, in order to give the reader an idea of its complexity, variety and significance. I maintain that this stream of research moves relevant critiques to social entrepreneurship mainstream discourses, yet I approach the matter with a different conceptual toolkit and method. I argue this is the conceptual thread that runs through and unites the numerous empirical manifestations and theoretical definitions of social entrepreneurship.
It is on this, and on the cultural discourses and practices that it entails and produces, that this research will concentrate. In this respect, this chapter can be seen as a necessary prologue to the empirical research in so far as it serves to identify its object of study.
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Social entrepreneurship: a brief overview In the last two decades, there has been a growing interest for what is called social entrepreneurship, on the part of policy makers, the media, business people, academics and civil society. Social Entrepreneurship is a growing phenomenon, which is attracting the interest of a variety of actors: from politicians to successful business men and women, from academic institutions to third sector associations, from venture capitalists to charities.
National governments have supported social entrepreneurship, promulgating campaigns and designing ad hoc legal statuses. One example is the Big Society programme, launched by the British Conservative government in , which puts social enterprises, charities and voluntary bodies at the centre of a public sector reformation. Influential business people have established foundations to celebrate and support the field, the most famous example being Jeff Skoll, the first president of EBay, who in founded the Skoll Foundation to incubate, promote and support social innovators and entrepreneurs.
Since then, universities on both sides of the Atlantic have designed and delivered academic courses on the topic. In the last fifteen years a number of scholars, mainly from business schools, have taken the first steps towards the establishment of Social Entrepreneurship as an academic discipline, a subfield of Entrepreneurship Studies, which in turn have sprung from Management Studies.
A few academic journals dedicated to this subject have been launched: e. Private citizens have founded associations and international networks to implement social entrepreneurship practices. A significant example is Impact Hub which I will discuss at length in Chapter IV , an international network of more than 80 coworking spaces, comprising of more than 15, members, and explicitly targeted towards social entrepreneurs.
Ashoka is surely another important actor in the field: a global association of 3, fellows in over 70 countries, supporting, promoting and building infrastructures for social enterprises. His name will appear again in the course of this thesis. It runs campaigns for the members and lobby on their behalf; moreover, it conducts research in the field, and facilitates business partnership building networks and raises the profile of social entrepreneurs Social Enterprise UK, From then on, under the leadership of Geoff Mulgan, Nesta has focused on innovation in the fields of arts, health, education and public services Nesta, Its flagship event FutureFest each year brings big names from Vivienne Westwood to Edward Snowden and a crowd of enthusiasts to experience two days of workshops, talks and performances about a more innovative and sustainable future FutureFest, Unltd Unlimited is a lottery funded charity that offers small grants to emerging entrepreneurs.
Unltd invest directly in individuals, and its programme provides mentoring and support alongside a financial prize. Since it was founded in , Unltd has given awards Unltd, Furthermore, it is committed to producing knowledge on social entrepreneurship, and to constantly communicating and disseminating the results and findings of its activities. Another example is the WIS, International Workshop on Social Entrepreneurship, which has run every year since , and is organised by Iris, the national network of research institutes on social entrepreneurship.
Iris is another important actor in the Italian scene, its aim is to gather, produce and communicate knowledge and experience on social entrepreneurship Iris, This brief overview, although by no means exhaustive, reflects the manifold character of the scene of social entrepreneurship. Also, it has the function of introducing some actors, most of whom will return throughout this thesis. In the following section, I focus on the academic literature on social entrepreneurship.
In doing so, I evidence how scholars are struggling to find a common definition. After having considered existing studies, I will clarify what I regard as the core of social entrepreneurship: i. A pre- paradigmatic status is characterised by considerable suspicion over its academic legitimacy, lack of consensus over key research questions and methodologies, and lack of evidences in support of central hypothesis.
Indeed, social entrepreneurship is a growing academic field, with more than scholarly articles on the subject published between and Hill et al, 5. The difficulty in crystalising social entrepreneurship is reflected in the on-going debate over its defining features. Considerable effort has been made to catalogue and synthesise such a variety of interpretations Hill et al. These undertakings propose slightly different classifications according to different criteria of analysis, ultimately confirming the lack of clearly defined disciplinary boundaries and conceptual architecture.
Arguably, one of the constraints academic research suffers from is the absence of reliable statistics. Those who need to determine its scope as an economic sector or social phenomenon may encounter serious difficulties. Furthermore, actual social entreprises adopt different legal formats in different countries. As a result, national and international surveys and comparisons are mostly unreliable Haugh, Furthermore, social entrepreneurs themselves vary in their demographics age, gender, education, current work status and motivations GEM, 3.
Indeed, most of the research participants were in the idea-generation phase of their projects when I met them, therefore they did not operate within an established enterprise. Besides, as it become clearer through the thesis, even the most experienced ones, who were already running a social enterprise, did not show any particular concern about its legal status. However, it implies that eventually it will be formalised and find a secure collocation.
It could be argued that social entrepreneurship will not be crystallised in a coherent, stable paradigm. Its pre-paradigmatic status could be its imminent status.
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Put differently, perhaps social entrepreneurship will resist a fully-fledged formalisation, taking various forms and traversing various fields. Indeed, if one looks at social entrepreneurship as a cultural phenomenon — rather than a sector of the economy — then the need to find a fixed definition is replaced by the will to decipher its conceptual, aesthetic and ethical elements to see how they create a different cultural assemblage in the next Chapter, I will expand on this point.
This categorisation is rooted in a historical and genealogical analysis that acknowledges the role of context-specific factors in shaping social entrepreneurship discourses and practices. However, conceptual bridges have been created - notably by Mair et al. To be sure, different criteria can lead to different ways of classifying trains of thought see, for instance, Hill et.
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Moreover, the actual phenomenology of social entrepreneurship does not follow any sharp and stable distinction. On the contrary, different discourses often intertwine in the experiences and discourses of social entrepreneurship scholars and practitioners. Despite these limitations, I still consider it useful to compare and contrast European and US narratives for a number of reasons: firstly, for the sake of clarity of exposition; secondly, because it allows us to shed light on the relevance of historical and geographical factors; thirdly, and most importantly, because it unveils the cultural and ethical elements that compose social entrepreneurship as a composite cultural phenomenon.
This genealogy builds upon the important function of third sector organisations i. These have had the function of compensating for ineffective or insufficient public policies, providing social services either as a counterbalance to liberal policies, as in the UK; or to supply to an underdeveloped welfare system, as in Italy Salamon et al. Within this stream of literature, particular efforts have been made to clarify the position of social entrepreneurship amongst markets, public policies and civic society; to analyse its differences and convergences with cooperatives, associations and mutual societies; to define adequate legal formats and public policies see Nyssens, This practice gained relevance in the late s and s, when the downturn in the economy led to a significant reduction in welfare and federal spending, depriving non-profits of the huge funds they had benefitted from since the launch of the Great Society programs in the s Kerlin, Its birth can be traced back to the foundation of Ashoka, in , by William Drayton, one of the ideologues and leaders of social entrepreneurship.
Other foundations, such as the Skoll Foundations and Schwab11, play a central role in promoting and funding social enterprises in the US. As can be noticed, the Earned Income School implies a substantial division between commercial and social activities. Indeed, although the first is meant to serve the latter, the two remain distinct.
What constitutes the object of this thesis is the extent to which social entrepreneurship in some, if not all, of its manifestations produces and is produced by the intertwining of the economic and social dimension, i.
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Klaus Schwab is also the creator of the World Economic Forum, which he set up in as a not-for-profit foundation. Yet the two differ greatly, for they belong to two separate and to some extent even antithetical discursive regimes. Using a Weberian parlance, it can be argued they reveal a bureaucratic and charismatic ethos, respectively.
Defourny and Nyssens make this clear: In Europe, specific governance structures of the social enterprise are put forward with a twofold objective. They therefore add to constraints on the distribution of profits with a view to protecting and strengthening the primacy of the social mission, which is at the very heart of the organization. Dees, ; Drayton, The attempt is rather to institutionalise patterns of social change, and make them part of a rational economic regime. In turn, such public support often allows social enterprises to avoid purely market-oriented strategies, which, in many cases, would lead them away from those who cannot afford market prices and nevertheless constitute the group that they target in accordance with their social mission.
Public policies are also supposed to avoid that the neediest groups depend primarily on private philanthropy Defourny and Nyssens, This discourse builds on the antithesis between the profit-driven logic of the market and the ethics of a social mission. Thus, governance functions as a protection for social commitment and the ethics of social enterprises, which would otherwise be jeopardised by market logic. It follows that social entrepreneurship is not conceived of as fully part of the market sphere. Yet, it is participating in the market as it engages in risk-taking activities Defourny and Nyssens, These assumptions are partially challenged by authors that can be considered as part of European scholarship.
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