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The Concept and Process of Social Entrepreneurship

The Concept and Process of Social Entrepreneurship

Defining Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship is About Innovation and Impact, Not Income: This article originally appeared on The Skoll Foundation’s Social Edge in September 2003. In it, Greg Dees argues from both a practical and theoretical perspective for an innovation-based, rather than nonprofit income generation-focused, definition of social entrepreneurship.

The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship: A seminal white paper written by CASE Faculty Director Greg Dees in 1998 and revised in 2001, this 5-page definition of social entrepreneurship is available on numerous websites and has been translated into several foreign languages. Developed with support from the Kauffman Foundation and distributed freely at their request.

Social Enterprise: Private Initiatives for the Common Good: This note identifies six dimensions that are useful for understanding the differences between private social-purpose organizations (nonprofit and for-profit) and traditional business firms. It also discusses the role of social enterprise in society and trends creating opportunities for social entrepreneurship.(Harvard Business School Publishing, 9-395-116, 1994.)

Social Entrepreneurship: Greg Dees and Peter Economy draw on entrepreneurship theory and their experience with social entrepreneurs to define social entrepreneurship, address why it is important to nonprofit leaders, and identify key factors important to entrepreneurial success. 

Chapter 1 in Enterprising Nonprofits: A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs, Dees, Emerson, & Economy (eds.), John Wiley & Sons, 2001.

The Process of Social Entrepreneurship

The Process of Social Entrepreneurship: Creating Opportunities Worthy of Serious Pursuit: Published by CASE in 2002, this note provides a framework to guide social entrepreneurs through the process of creating a worthwhile opportunity. Written for classroom use, it is designed to help increase the chances of success for anyone contemplating the journey of social entrepreneurship, and it may also be helpful for those considering investing in new social ventures.

Mastering the Art of Innovation: Greg Dees offers practical advice for nonprofit leaders about how to identify innovative opportunities, manage the tensions inherent to the innovation process, and build an innovative, adaptive organization. Chapter 7 in Enterprising Nonprofits: A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs, Dees, Emerson, & Economy (eds.), John Wiley & Sons, 2001.

Responding to Market Failures: This note broadly defines the concept of market failure and explores options for responding to it, paying particular attention to the role of business leaders in addressing market deficiencies. (Harvard Business School Publishing, 9-396-344, 1996.) Note on Starting a Nonprofit Venture: This note provides anyone considering starting a nonprofit organization with a basic understanding of the nature of nonprofit status, tax and regulatory issues for nonprofits, and the distinctive management challenges associated with a nonprofit start-up. 

(Harvard Business School Publishing, 9-391-096.)

Social Entrepreneurship Theory and Research

The Challenges of Creating Databases to Support Rigorous Research in Social Entrepreneurship
This is a working paper written by Paul Bloom and Cathy Clark. (11/2011)
The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges associated with trying to create databases that serious researchers would want to use to examine issues related to social entrepreneurship.  Questions are raised about defining the units to be studied, determining what to measure, deciding where to obtain data, avoiding selection bias, obtaining responses, protecting anonymity and confidentiality, managing the database, ensuring accuracy and honesty, and creating a sustainable business model.

Social Ventures as Learning Laboratories

In this article, Greg Dees argues that, in the wake of the financial crisis, we need “entrepreneurship that creates greater long-term value while drawing on fewer resources and generating fewer destructive consequences”.  Financial pressures cause social problems to become even more pressing, and social entrepreneurs can help put us back on a path to inclusive prosperity.  Dees argues that social entrepreneurs serve as learning laboratories for society – they develop, test, and refine innovative solutions in ways that established organizations (with inherent biases, bureaucracy, cultures and commitments) cannot do as effectively. This publication was originally written for a special edition of Innovationsdistributed at the 2009 World Economic Forum meeting but was recently updated and re-published in Tennessee’s Business (Vol 20, No 1, May 2011).

Framing a Theory of Social Entrepreneurship: Building on Two Schools of Practice and Thought: Greg Dees and Beth Anderson trace the evolution of two primary schools of thought and practice that have defined the field of social entrepreneurship, arguing that the most promising arena for academic inquiry lies at the intersection of the "Social Enterprise" and "Social Innovation" schools, around "enterprising social innovation."

Research on Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding and Contributing to an Emerging Field, a special volume from the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), funded by the UPS Foundation Rhetoric, Research, and Reality: Building a Solid Foundation for the Practice of Social Entrepreneurship: Beth Anderson and Greg Dees raise questions about some of the rhetoric around “earned income strategies” in arguing that the nascent field of social entrepreneurship needs to build a strong foundation of rigorous, yet practically-oriented, research, particularly by engaging business school researchers. Chapter 7 in the forthcoming book Social Entrepreneurship: New Paradigms of Sustainable Social Change, Alex Nicholls (ed.), Oxford University Press.

Social Entrepreneurs and Education: Greg Dees responds to articles in a special issue of the journal Current Issues in Comparative Education, in which the contributors were asked to respond to his earlier piece on The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship. Current Issues in Comparative Education, vol. 8 no. 1, December 1, 2005 

NOTE: This information on Social Entrepreneurship is based on work done by Duke University's Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) and The Social Enterprise Program (SEP) at Columbia Business School.

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