Supporting Social Entrepreneurs - The effects of organizational maturity and business model on perceived support needs

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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). Still, social entrepreneurs do not operate in a vacuum. They depend on various forms of support and resources to establish and grow their ventures and impact. Hence, the question of how to support social entrepreneurs and their initiatives becomes of increasing relevance (Lyon/Sepulveda 2009). In spite of the growing call for measures to enable social
entrepreneurship on a broad scale (e.g. by the World Economic Forum, Skoll Foundation and others) and increasing political support for the topic, little is known about the actual activities and resources required for incubating and sustaining social ventures. As of now, the support needs of social entrepreneurs have received limited attention in organizational and entrepreneurship research. Studies that touch upon the topic are mostly of qualitative or narrative nature (Thompson 2002: 429). Also, while it is a common understanding that "there is no one type of social entrepreneur" (Barendsen/Gardner 2004: 47), current perspectives rarely take into consideration that the needs of social entrepreneurs may be heterogeneous and vary over time. The approach of value creation can create different
support demands, depending on the business model and the scale and scope of the intended impact (e.g. Zahra et al. 2009). Distinctive research still remains to be conducted in order to answer where, when, whom and how to best support within the social entrepreneurship spectrum.
Against this background, this paper is guided by the following 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 by the organization. In an attempt to answer these questions this paper presents an explorative empirical investigation of these the support needs of a heterogeneous sample in seven countries. Our focus is firstly set on conceptualizing relevant support needs. Based on a literature review and 22 semi-structured interviews, seventeen support needs are identified with regards to the individual development (Thompson et al. 2000: 337), organizational resources (Austin et al. 2006: 13), the entrepreneurial process (Sharir/Lerner 2006: 15) and the environment (CASE 2008: 14). Moreover, two potential determinants of support needs are being dentified:
varying stages of organizational maturity (herein referred to as "stages") as well as different business and income models ("models"). The levels of these support needs and the influence of stages and models are then tested among 112 social entrepreneurs in seven countries.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2012

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