Social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship has gained considerable attention internationally over the past ten years, and provides promising solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in our society. The Center for Entrepreneurship would like to contribute to the development of social entrepreneurship in Norway through both research and education. We offer a 30 ECTS program in social entrepreneurship and we have a PhD student who works particularly with this topic.

What is social entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurship is to solve social or societal challenges and problems in an innovative and sustainable way. The driving force and primary goal in social entrepreneurship is social value creation, not profit maximization. Income generation is important in order to achieve the main objective, but surplus will generally be reinvested to promote the purpose. Social entrepreneurs are often market oriented and ambitious, using business methods and tools to achieve their social goals.

There are many different forms of social entrepreneurship, and it is challenging to set the boundaries of what falls within the concept. Social entrepreneurship cannot be categorized according to the chosen form of organization or funding. Some social entrepreneurs rely on donations and grants, while others have their own earnings to finance operations. They can be organized as foundations, associations, nonprofit organizations, or as regular businesses. The following common features are still left in the description of the social entrepreneurship:

  • Social focus: The primary objective is to solve social challenges or problems in the community
  • Entrepreneurship: It usually involves the creation of new businesses or activities, and create lasting structures
  • Innovation: Methods and solutions represents something new compared to what has been done  before
  • Market orientation and focus on its earnings and sales to achieve financial sustainability
  • High degree of involvement of target groups: Social entrepreneurs are often very responsive to target group needs
  • Change agents: They are the frontrunners for social change in society

Although the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship is not new, the great attention to this is relatively new. There is a large increase in the number of social entrepreneurs and their organizations, and they have become more visible. The sector is characterized by increasing professionalization and globalization. In addition to the social entrepreneurs themselves, there is a large number of other groups working for social change by means of professionalism, competence and competitiveness. An example is the venture philanthropic tropics, which combines financial support with expertise in supply strategy, project management and organizational development. Internationally, the development of the field of social entrepreneurship has largely been driven by large organizations whose primary purpose is to support social entrepreneurs, create awareness and promote knowledge about social entrepreneurship. Examples of such organizations are Ashoka, the Schwab Foundation and The Skoll Foundation.

Within academia, social entrepreneurship is relatively new as a research area, but gaining speed rapidly. Reputable universities all over the world are offering courses in social entrepreneurship from bachelor to MBA and PhD-level, as well as conducting research on social entrepreneurship. There is a great need to develop our knowledge base about this phenomenom.

Research topics:
One of the central themes in social entrepreneurship is how to scale impact, in order to create changes on a larger scale. "Going to scale" and "maximizing social impact" are key concepts. It is acknowledged that scaling organizations is not the only way to scale impact, nor is it enough. There are several other strategies that organizations can use when they go to scale.

Eline Synneva Lorentzen Ingstad is a research fellow in social entrepreneurship at the Center for Entrepreneurship and focuses especially on the scaling of social entrepreneurship organizations. She looks at scaling strategies, how different stakeholders contribute in the scaling process and key success factors in the scaling process. The study is exploratory and qualitative, and focuses on social entrepreneurs in Norway.

By Eline Lorentzen Ingstad
Published Jan. 27, 2011 1:53 PM - Last modified Feb. 11, 2011 9:50 AM