A selection of interesting articles we found recently looking at understanding social entrepreneurs.

Who are social entrepreneurs and what drives them?
This paper questions the taken-for-granted moral portrayal depicted in the extant literature and popular media of the devoted social entrepreneurial hero with a priori good ethical and moral credentials. Sophie Bacq, Chantal Hartog & Brigitte Hoogendoorn confront this somewhat idealistic and biased portrayal with insights from unique large-scale data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2009 survey on social entrepreneurship covering Belgium and The Netherlands.

Binary and multi-nomial logistic regressions indicate that the intention and dominance of perceived social value creation over economic value creation is indeed what makes social entrepreneurs unique. In contrast to the extant literature, however, this empirical investigation points at a reluctant attitude of social entrepreneurs toward entrepreneurship in terms of confidence in their skills to start and manage a business, their perception of entrepreneurship as a desirable career choice and their involvement in their activities. While the extant literature points at a strong entrepreneurial orientation as a source of ethical issues (e.g., mission drift, profit orientation), the main contribution of this study lies in the reverse observation: ethical issues are also likely to emanate from a frail entrepreneurial profile.

The authors formulate empirically grounded propositions that may serve as a basis for theory-building and testing purposes.

Read further details at: Sophie Bacq, Chantal Hartog & Brigitte Hoogendoorn. 2016. Beyond the Moral Portrayal of Social Entrepreneurs: An Empirical Approach to Who They Are and What Drives Them.
Journal of Business Ethics, 133(4), 703-718.


How social entrepreneurs create freedom for themselves
This article identifies power, subjectivity, and practices of freedom as neglected but significant elements for understanding the ethics of social entrepreneurship. While the ethics of social entrepreneurship is typically conceptualized in conjunction with innate properties or moral commitments of the individual, Pascal Dey & Chris Steyaert problematize this view based on its presupposition of an essentialist conception of the authentic subject. They offer, based on Foucaults ethical oeuvre, a practice-based alternative which sees ethics as being exercised through a critical and creative dealing with the limits imposed by power, notably as these limits pertain to the conditioning of the neoliberal subject.

To this end, the authors first draw on prior research which looks at how practitioners of social enterprises engage with government policies that demand that they should act and think more like prototypical entrepreneurs. Instead of simply endorsing the kind of entrepreneurial subjectivity implied in prevailing policies, the results indicate that practitioners are mostly reluctant to identify themselves with the invocation of governmental power, often rejecting the subjectivity offered to them by discourse.

Conceiving these acts of resistance as emblematic of how social entrepreneurs practise ethics by retaining a skeptical attitude toward attempts that seek to determine who they should be and how they should live, Dey & Steyaert introduce three vignettes that illustrate how practices of freedom relate to critique, the care for others, and reflected choice. The paper concludes that a practice-based approach of ethics can advance our understanding of how social entrepreneurs actively produce conditions of freedom for themselves as well as for others without supposing a true self or a utopian space of liberty beyond power.
Find details at: Pascal Dey & Chris Steyaert. 2016. Rethinking the Space of Ethics in Social Entrepreneurship: Power, Subjectivity, and Practices of Freedom.
Journal of Business Ethics, 133(4), 627-641.


Pathways to vision in social entrepreneurship: Deliberate and emergent
This study explores the pathways from the aspiration to make a difference in the world to vision and action of social entrepreneurs. Based on the qualitative analysis of interviews with 23 individuals who have pioneered institutions and initiatives around corporate responsibility, Sandra Waddock & Erica Steckler find two predominant pathways to vision.

The deliberate path starts with aspiration and moves through purpose toward a relatively intentional vision that ultimately leads to, and is subsequently informed by, action. The emergent path also begins with aspiration then moves directly to action and only retrospectively to a sense of a vision behind the actions taken.

The emergent path, in which action precedes vision, is contrary to the dominant assumption that vision leads to action in an entrepreneurial context and may be further characterised as either inadvertent or developmental. In advancing a conceptual model of the vision–action or action–vision trajectories of social entrepreneurs, this study highlights the iterative nature of vision. This study also demonstrates the importance of considering formative experiences that contribute to the aspiration to make some kind of a difference in the world, a sense of purpose or intentions, and core values and beliefs in examining the ethicality of social entrepreneurship.

Read details at: Sandra Waddock & Erica Steckler. 2016. Visionaries and Wayfinders: Deliberate and Emergent Pathways to Vision in Social Entrepreneurship.
Journal of Business Ethics, 133(4), 719-734.


Ethical challenges of scaling up social enterprises
This paper advances the conception of social entrepreneurs as caring entrepreneurs. Kevin André & Anne-Claire Pache argue that the care ethics of social entrepreneurs, implying the pursuit of caring goals through caring processes, can be challenged when they engage in the process of scaling up their ventures. The authors propose that social entrepreneurs can sustain their care ethics as the essential dimension of their venture only if they are able to build a caring enterprise. Organisational care designates the set of organising principles that facilitate the embedding of care ethics at an organisational level, beyond the imprinting induced by social entrepreneurs personal ethics.

More details are at: Kevin André & Anne-Claire Pache. 2016. From Caring Entrepreneur to Caring Enterprise: Addressing the Ethical Challenges of Scaling up Social Enterprises.
Journal of Business Ethics, 133(4), 659-675.


More papers on this topic are available in the special issue of the Journal of Business Ethics on Social Entrepreneurship, volume 133(4).