This part constitutes a review to Samer Abu-Saifan’s academic paper ‘Social Entrepreneurship: Definition and Boundaries’

‘Whenever society is stuck or has an opportunity to seize a new opportunity, it needs an entrepreneur to see the opportunity and then to turn that vision into a realistic idea and then a reality and then, indeed, the new pattern all across society. We need such entrepreneurial leadership at least as much in education and human rights as we do in communications and hotels. This is the work of social entrepreneurs’

Bill Drayton Founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

As the academics indicate, social entrepreneurship constitutes a field that is being characterized by a lack of concrete boundaries and a common definition, thus currently being in search for a clear definition in order to acquire academic legitimacy. Simultaneously, there is a need for social entrepreneurship to obtain a theoretical framework through which it could be linked with theories of classic entrepreneurship (Samer Abu-Saifan, 2012).

In terms of the definition of pure entrepreneurship, the majority of the academics and researchers recognise the notion’s value, as they support that nowadays it is converting into a major factor which inevitably contributes to the prosperity of modern societies; regardless if the entrepreneurial activities are being applied in factor-driven, efficiency-driven or innovation-driven economies, the final impact remains exactly the same: reduction of unemployment percentages, upward trend in creating innovation and increased alterations in economy structures, by simultaneously affecting in a positive way both the productivity and healthy economic competitiveness (UNCTAD, 2004; tinyurl.com/d3xkdj4).

On the other hand, when we refer to the special category of entrepreneurship, called ‘social entrepreneurship’, we imply those entrepreneurial activities that are directly interwoven with the final aim to create social value. As Dees describes, the social entrepreneur ‘combines the passion of a social mission with an image of business-like discipline, innovation, and determination commonly associated with, for instance, the high-tech pioneers of Silicon Valley’ (Dees, 1998; tinyurl.com/86g2a6).

Despite the fact that the notion of ‘social entrepreneur’ gains recognition and popularity, there is still, on the other hand a recorded tendency of uncertainty in relation to the mode of operation of a social entrepreneur. As Samer Abu-Saifan, 2012 puts it down ‘The term social entrepreneur is ill-defined (Barendsen and Gardner, 2004: tinyurl.com/75jr5sp; Weerawardena and Mort, 2006: tinyurl.com/7erg5lz), it is fragmented, and it has no coherent theoretical framework (Weerawardena and Mort, 2006)’, whilst subsequently pointing out the need to define social entrepreneurs in consistency to the validated theories about entrepreneurship. For that reason, we borrow Samer Abu-Saifan’s table on aquote a table which contains different definitions of the notions of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘entrepreneur’ in different time periods, in order to be subsequently compared with the corresponding definitions of ‘social entrepreneurship’ and ‘social entrepreneurs’

Within the last fifteen years, all those success stories of people who are being called as ‘social entrepreneurs’, managing to give concrete solutions to crucial socio-economic problems operate as a form of legitimization of the term of ‘social entrepreneurship’. A concrete example constitutes the Social E Lab that was created and promoted in 2004 by the Stanford University, aiming at promoting the traditional form of entrepreneurship and its main principles for the resolution of various global problems. Some other cases that are frequently being proposed by the academic bibliography as successful models of social enterprises include Ashoka (ashoka.org), OneWorld Health (oneworldhealth.org), The Skoll Foundation (skollfoundation.org), and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship (schwabfound.org).

Their loyalty in addressing and resolving key social problems in order to satisfy social challenges and improve the standards and the quality of life when it is about marginalised social groups, put social entrepreneurs at the heart of societies (Zahra et al., 2008). By contrasting various definitions of social entrepreneurs with the corresponding ones of pure entrepreneurs, we conclude that the latter mainly focuses on the creation of economic wealth, whereas the social entrepreneur operates in a way that satisfies all the criteria set by the primal social mission he wants to fulfilled, thus developing a series of revenue-generating sources and strategies in order to suction social value (Samer Abu-Saifan, 2012).

Samer Abu-Saifan was one of the first academics who tried to formulate a concrete definition of social entrepreneur in order to set the boundaries and to fight against the ‘constantly perceived vagueness’ that characterizes the specific field, in an attempt to attribute a kind of academic ‘legitimacy’ to the notion of ‘social entrepreneur’. As he puts it down, ‘[t]he social entrepreneur is a mission-driven individual who uses a set of entrepreneurial behaviours to deliver a social value to the less privileged, all through an entrepreneurially oriented entity that is financially independent, self-sufficient, or sustainable’, whilst subsequently proceeding to the formulation of four basic points-pillars that distinguish social entrepreneurs from other types of entrepreneurs.

First of all social entrepreneurs are mission-driven, thus operating in the context of creating and conveying social value to the less privileged social groups.Secondly, they have the capacity to act entrepreneurially within a set of pre-determined features which distinct them from other forms of entrepreneurs (Table 2). Additionally, social entrepreneurs function through entrepreneurially oriented organizations that operate within a context that reinforces innovation and openness. The last given point is that social function within financially independent organizations, through which they design and apply earned-income strategies, by attempting to deliver the pre-determined social value to the underserved social groups whilst remaining economically sustainable and self-sufficient. This target is being accomplished, as Samer Abu-Saifan describes, by the mixture of activities that are even socially or profitably- driven and which allow to the organization to limit its reliance to funds that spring from donations or state funds(Bacq et al., 2011).

The next table that Samer Abu-Saifan quotes, indicates the inherent features of both profit oriented and social entrepreneurs whilst detecting those features that are most common for each type of entrepreneur separately.

Nevertheless, due to the insufficiency to attribute a clear definitions, it has been observed that some other fields-disciplines, such as charities, social activists, philanthropies, environmentalists etc are frequently -and wrongfully- being entitled as ‘social entrepreneurs’, thus generating the need for set concrete boundaries within which a social entrepreneur operates and which are capable to distinguish him from any other forms of entrepreneurs and other types of socially-oriented practitioners. As Samer Abu-Saifan claims ‘according to the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, the definition of social entrepreneurship should not extend to philanthropists, activists, companies with foundations, or organizations that are simply socially responsible (tinyurl.com/yd8ggyq). While all these agents are needed and valued, they are not social entrepreneurs’, therefore highlighting the need for positioning the social entrepreneur in the ‘spectrum of social entrepreneurship’ in accordance with two main business strategies:

1. Non-profit with earned income strategies: a social enterprise performing hybrid social and commercial entrepreneurial activity to achieve self-sufficiency. In this scenario, a social entrepreneur operates an organization that is both social and commercial; revenues and profits generated are used only to further improve the delivery of social values.

2. For-profit with mission-driven strategies: a social purpose business performing social and commercial entrepreneurial activities simultaneously to achieve sustainability. In this scenario, a social entrepreneur operates an organization that is both social and commercial; the organization is financially independent and the founders and investors can benefit from personal monetary gain’ (Samer Abu-Saifan, 2012).

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP: WHAT IS IT?

Social Entrepreneurship is a trendy concept in today’s society, therefore turning it to be increasingly popular. That is the reason why this concept is attracting more and more attention worldwide, namely from academia as well as from the economic sector. It can be said that social entrepreneurship is a modern expression, a kind of “new fashion”. However, the same does not apply to the phenomenon itself, since there always have been social entrepreneurs even though the later were not distinguished as such.
A good example of the last statement is the huge number of solidarity institutions we all know for a long time. These institutions were created through initiatives of this nature, but were never associated to the topic of social entrepreneurship. This expression has acquired a newly emphasis, therefore being considered as a dynamic and revolutionary movement responsive to the many problems modern societies are facing. It is transforming also the way we think about and interpret society in general. It overlaps with the notion of social responsibility, already familiar to corporate businesses. The later are progressively assuming the moral duty of contributing to the sustainable development of the society which they are part of.

CREATING SOCIAL VALUE

Social entrepreneurship excels by a greater objectivity and thus it is very much focused on the role of the entrepreneur as a social agent, as well as on the methodologies followed closely by the former, in order to achieve its main goal: the creating of social value! It is undeniable that these practices lead to a more stimulating concept, which unveils a broader territory and contributes decisively to the overcome of several pre-existent boundaries.

FINANCIAL RETURN OR SOCIAL RETURN?

Basically, social entrepreneurship is about innovation and impact, but not about profit. This does not mean that both ways cannot coexist, since socially designed projects which generate revenue can also be included into this type of social-alike ventures. Moreover, several intrinsic characteristics of a “commercial entrepreneur” (entrepreneurial initiative, innovation, management competences, leverage of funds and other resources, sense of opportunity, etc.) are equally essential to a well-succeeded social entrepreneur. The difference is that the latter develops his/her work in the context of a social mission he/she intends to carry out, besides facing social other challenges which cannot be neglected. The impact of his/her mission statement affects the way the opportunities are identified and evaluated, being the profit generated from these actions merely a means to an end.

References

  1. Bacq S., Hartog C., Hoogendoorn B. & Lepoutre J. (2011). Social and commercial entrepreneurship: exploring individual and organizational characteristics. Scales Research Reports H201110, EIM Business and Policy Research, The Netherlands, Google Scholar
  2. Barendsen, Lynn and Howard Gardner. (2004),Is the Social Entrepreneur a New Type of Leader?, Leader to Leader, V. 34, p. 43-50.
  3. Bikse V., Rivza V., Riemere I., (2015) The Social Entrepreneur as a promoter of Social Advancement, Procedia- Social and Behavioural Sciences, Volume 185, 13 May 2015, p. 469-478 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042815021989
  4. Dees Gregory J.,(1998) Social Enterprise:Enterprising Non-Profits, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/1998/01/enterprising-nonprofits
  5. Samer Abu Saifan (2012) Social Entrepreneurship: Definitions and Boundaries, Technology Innovation Management Review, February 2012
  6. Zahra et all, (2008), Globalization of Social Entrepreneurship Opportunities, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 2(2): 117:131