What Does it Take to Support a Change Maker? – The Effects of Organizational Maturity, Business Model and Mission Orientation on the Support Needs of Social Entrepreneurs
26 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 12, 2015
Social Entrepreneurs tend to be characterized as “unusually resourceful in being relatively undaunted by scarce assets in pursuing their social venture” (Peredo & McLean, 2006, 64) or “acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand” (Dees, 2001, 4). Yet, social entrepreneurs do not operate in a vacuum and depend on various forms of support to establish and grow their ventures and impact. The question of how to support social entrepreneurs becomes of increasing relevance (Lyon & Sepulveda, 2009).
In spite of the call for measures to enable social entrepreneurship on a broad scale (e.g. by the World Economic Forum, Skoll Foundation and others), very little is known about the actual activities and resources required for incubating and sustaining social ventures. Findings are largely peripheral across essays, case studies or surveys and commonly are of qualitative nature (e.g. Thompson, 2002, 429). Furthermore, just as it is a common understanding that “there is no one type of social entrepreneur” (Barendsen & Gardner, 2004, 47), the needs of social entrepreneurs are heterogeneous and vary over time.
Against this background, this paper is guided by the following explorative research questions: (1) What are the support needs of social entrepreneurs? (2) How are these support needs influenced by (a) organizational maturity and (b) the way, value is created and monetized by the organization.
Drawing on suggestions from literature, potential support needs of social entrepreneurs with particular regards to the individual development (e.g. Thompson, Alvy, & Lees, 2000), organizational design (e.g. Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006), and environment (e.g. Sharir & Lerner, 2006) are identified. Findings from literature are complemented with a qualitative study comprising 22 semi-structured interviews with social entrepreneurs and experts. The synthesis of qualitative results and literature research allows us to define 17 distinct areas, in which social entrepreneurs actively seek support, such as fundraising or maintaining personal motivation. Moreover, potential determinants of support needs were identified and included in the study as potential differentiators, such as perspectives on diverse types of social entrepreneurs (Zahra 2009, Boschee & McClurg, 2003), business models and varying stages of organizational maturity (Harding, 2006). These results laid the ground for a subsequent quantitative study.
The study investigates These Support Needs and their prevalence in a sample of 1,900 social entrepreneurs on five continents. Results show that - in spite of the common theme of self-relying entrepreneurial heroism - social entrepreneurs across countries indeed have strong needs for external support and are able to articulate them. Furthermore, data reveals that these needs vary strongly depending on the mission-orientation, development stage and earnings model of the particular venture.
Results have interesting implications for researchers, policy makers, and practioners in the field of social entrepreneurship.
Keywords: social entrepreneurship, incubation, social enterprise, mission-orientation
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