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Discovering social entrepreneurship.


The Art and Science of Entrepreneurship is a major contribution in the area of entrepreneurship. Churchill, (1986) contends that increasing consensus has been attained on the concept of entrepreneurship as the process of uncovering or developing an opportunity to create value through innovation and seizing that opportunity without regard to either resources (human and capital) or the location of entrepreneur--a new or existing company. Traditional theories of entrepreneurship have focused on risk-oriented profit-seeking individuals (Kirzner, 1973; Schumpeter, 1942) who identify market opportunities and exploit them to earn profits. Though useful, the traditional definition of the entrepreneur ignores the large number of entrepreneurs who eschew profits and create new organizations to bring about social change (Hibbert, et al., 2002; Prabhu, 1999). These entrepreneurs, known as social entrepreneurs, create new, viable socio-economic structures, relations, institutions, organizations and practices that yield and sustain social benefits (Fowler, 2000). Though social entrepreneurs may be similar to traditional entrepreneurs in many ways (e.g. both create new organizations and serve as 'building blocks' for societal development), the key difference between the two is that the former are not driven by profit but are primarily driven by an intrinsic desire to solve social problems and create social value (Hibbert, et al., 2002; Prabhu, 1999; Sarasvathy and Wicks, 2003). With their focus on social change and development, social entrepreneurs have a significant impact on society and economy (Mair and Noboa, 2003). For example, Wendy Copp (founder, Teach for America) and Muhammad Yunus (founder, Grameen Bank) formed new organizations that yield and sustain social benefits to less privileged sections of society in the US and Bangladesh respectively. Their vision and subsequent efforts not only led to the creation of new, and innovative organizations, an important entrepreneurial activity (Gartner, 1990; Katz and Gartner, 1988), but also had enormous "economic, psychological, and social consequences for society as a whole", an important topic of concern for entrepreneurship scholars (Venkataraman, 1997). The activities of social entrepreneurs may have a significant influence on the life of people across the world (e.g. the methods pioneered by Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh are now applied in 58 countries around the world, including US, Canada, France, Netherlands, and Norway). Social entrepreneurs are not only important to the development an progress of most under-developed and developing countries, but are also essential to societal progress of developed economies. Moreover, social entrepreneurs do not see themselves as bounded by 'xenophobic' national boundaries, but working for the interest of human society at large. For example, the entrepreneurial vision of Muhammad Yunus is "the total eradication of poverty from the world ... putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long".

Social entrepreneurs are normal, everyday people who forego the pursuit of private wealth for social value creation (Dees, 1998; Sarasvathy and Wicks, 2003). They are a distinct type of entrepreneurs who serve as 'building blocks' for the development of their community and civic society (Cornwall, 1998). They, like entrepreneurs in the for-profit area, have a vision and create new organizations to proactively achieve their vision (Sarasvathy, 2000). Unfortunately, despite the apparent similarities between what social entrepreneurs do and what entrepreneurship researchers seek to study, there has been a paucity of studies in the area of social entrepreneurship. The researcher believes that social entrepreneurs are motivated by social incentives, the desire to create social value and create social change. In this paper the researcher attempts to develop a framework for social entrepreneurship that is based on unstructured interviews, observations, secondary data over the period from 1994 to 2006. The researcher uses data collected through interviews with nine social entrepreneurs and use this data to validate the framework developed for studying social entrepreneurship. Since a systematic theoretical model of social entrepreneurship is not available, the researcher develops propositions about social entrepreneurship based on both theoretical arguments and qualitative case studies to enable researchers to replicate findings from this research.

In recent years, scholars from a variety of different management fields, and social science disciplines have produced research that meets the scholarly standards of leading entrepreneurship journals, and have provided a valuable boost to our collective body of knowledge in the field of entrepreneurship. Despite the fact that the scholarly field of entrepreneurship attracts contribution from a large number of academic disciplines, most entrepreneurship scholars acknowledge two central premises of entrepreneurship (Venkataraman, 1997). The first premise, referred to as Kirzner's arbitrage, holds that entrepreneurs seek new ways to profit from previous errors in inefficient markets (Kirzner, 1973). The second, familiar to most people as Schumpeter's 'process of creative destruction', holds that entrepreneurs are heroic figures lured by profits to introduce new innovations (Schumpeter, 1934). These two central premises of entrepreneurship research are based on the underlying assumption that entrepreneurs are primarily driven by economic incentives, the desire to earn profits to create economic value for themselves (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). Even as the large body of research building on these two premises has contributed immensely to our understanding of entrepreneurial activity in society, it has ignored social entrepreneurs whose primary mission is not the pursuit of profits but social change, and development of less privileged sections of society. In the larger management, and business literature there has been some research on prosocial behavior (Rioux and Penner, 2001; Finkelstein, and Penner, 2004), volunteering (Finkelstein, Penner, and Brannick, 2005), and organizational citizenship behavior (Finkelstein, and Penner, 2004). This body of research is primarily concerned with large organization, focuses on how some individuals go beyond their job description to help their colleagues, and their organization, and is largely oriented towards management issues i.e., the development of management practices, and organizational systems to encourage such behavior among employees rather than entrepreneurial issues i.e. those related to the process of organization creation, and involving creative resource combinations (Sarasvathy, 2000). A few scholars however have explored the link between pro-social behaviors and social entrepreneurship. In particular, Mair and Noboa (2003) investigated how intentions predict entrepreneurial behavior, and proposed a model of social entrepreneurial intentions. Their model incorporated cognitive (such as morals, and judgments), and emotional (such as, empathy) factors that together with enablers such as self-efficacy, and social support led to social entrepreneurial intentions. The researcher believes that these social entrepreneurial intentions are very similar to pro-social intentions to help others without monetary or profit considerations and it would be incumbent upon us to investigate how such pro-social intentions arise when the researcher studies social entrepreneurship.

Some scholars have investigated the origins of prosocial behaviors, and volunteering (Penner, et al., 2005) by looking at a number of individual traits, and characteristics including empathy, and altruistic personality. The question why people help has been a central issue in studies on pro-social behaviors, and scholars have focused on three types of mechanisms (a) Learning, (Staub, 2005; Eisenberg and Fabes, 1991); (b) Social and Personal Standards (Omoto and Snyder, 1995), and (c) Arousal, and Affect (Eisenberg, 1997; Batson and Shaw, 1991). These perspectives were further developed by shifting the emphasis from single encounter helping to longer term, sustained pro-social behaviors such as volunteering (Omoto and Snyder, 1995). Volunteering shares a number of commonalities with pro-social behaviors in that both are long term, planned, and discretionary acts that benefit unknown others (Finkelstein and Penner, 2004). It is important to understand the differences, and similarities between pro-social behaviors, organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), and volunteering before the researcher looks at the antecedents of social entrepreneurship. Both OCB, and volunteering are forms of pro-social behaviors (Rioux and Penner, 2001); however, while volunteering is often associated with unpaid members of service organizations, OCB is studied in the context of work in for-profit organizations (Penner, 2002; Finkelstein and Penner, 2004). Since volunteering is a pro-social behavior studied in the context of social service organizations, the theories developed to explain the origins of volunteering can be taken as a first step towards understanding how entrepreneurs perceive a social need. One of the earliest approaches examining prosocial behaviors were the functional approaches (Snyder, 1993; Omotoand Snyder, 1995) whose central assumption was that human behaviors are motivated by certain goals, and needs. However, in recent years, scholars have found support for the idea that altruistic motivation is closely related to volunteering behaviors (Penner and Finkelstein, 1998). According to this approach, volunteering behavior in individuals is generally triggered by some kind of arousal. Many individuals are stimulated by observing the distress of others; and the immediate reactionary response to this stimulus is to alleviate the cause of this stimulus (Pilliavin, et al., 1981; Batson and Shaw, 1991). The researcher believes that since the goal of social entrepreneurs is 'creating a better society', theories explaining pro-social behaviors offer us a good theoretical base.

The Origins of Social Entrepreneurship Behaviors

It has been extensively studied in previous literature on entrepreneurship that entrepreneurial intentions reveal the motivations behind the pursuit of entrepreneurial activities (Bagozzi, Baumgartner, and Yi, 1989; Katz and Gartner, 1988). In the case of social entrepreneurship, the primary motivation for the establishment of social organizations is the alleviation of some perceived social need (Prabhu, 1999). Prior research indicates that the perception of a social need depends upon the context that the social entrepreneur finds himself or herself in (Mair and Noboa, 2003; Prabhu 1999). In their study investigating the intentions of social entrepreneurs, Mair and Noboa (2003) state that background of the social entrepreneur is critical in triggering the perception of social need. There have been some studies investigating the empirical relationship between prosocial behaviors (Comunian and Gielen, 1995) and creation of social value (Bolino et al., 2002). For the social entrepreneurs, who start new social organizations for alleviating an unmet social need, we propose that possessing an empathyaltruistic orientation helps in perceiving a social need.

This is because an empathy-altruistic orientation is necessary to empathize with an affected group. This phenomenon of empathy-altruism was investigated by Batson and Shaw (1991) with a focus on how individuals react to distress2. The empathic altruistic motivations seem to focus on others rather than self when there is distress caused by the perception of someone in need. In case of AWAG, the entrepreneur being a woman could empathize with other women who were exploited and wanted to help them in some way which was different from the traditional approaches which were not yielding results. Before staring this organization the founder worked as a volunteer with another important organization SEWA in this region and also did her doctoral work in a related subject. In this case, her altruistic personality as well as her experiences volunteering for SEWA generated in her the need for an organization focused on helping exploited women. This characteristic of altruistic personality is also evident from the interview with the founder of CERC who asks, "How do we repay the debt to society?". Empathy-altruistic orientation is commonly seen in all the organizations and it is very consistent with previous conceptualizations of social entrepreneurship (Alvord, et al., 2002; Mair, and Noboa, 2003).

Research Methodology

The researcher uses grounded theory with constant comparative logic, where a series of categories are related with previous instances or non instances of the category in order to better define the categories (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Eisenhardt, 1989). We use grounded theory with multiple cases so that a more vivid, and complex picture can be developed about what motivates social entrepreneurs to start social ventures. Primarily, we seek to investigate the following questions:

(i) According to social entrepreneurs, what factors motivate them to start a social organization?

(ii) How do social entrepreneurs perceive that there exists a social need and how do social entrepreneurs try to alleviate this need?

(iii) What are some of the initial challenges that social entrepreneurs face when setting up social ventures and according to these entrepreneurs what factors (both personal and macro-social) help them overcome the initial challenges?

One of the requirements of a grounded theory approach is a consistent criterion which is applied to each case and which logically relates to the research question(s) being investigated (Patton 2002; Yin, 1994). The goal of our study was to identify how and why the social organizations were formed. To this end, the semi-structured interviews with the entrepreneurs of the nine organizations selected for study focused on:

(i) The origin of the entrepreneurial idea and the perception of social need

(ii) The creativity and communication necessary in realizing this idea

(iii) The decision-making process used in the initial phase of venture creation

(iv) The challenges faced during the initial phase of venture generation

(v) The social and institutional support as perceived by the entrepreneurs

(vi) The future plan for the social enterprise, as conceived by the entrepreneur and their core group

The interviews were recorded and then translated into English; these translations were then analyzed for identifying patterns (Holsti, 1968; Langley, 1999) associated with the entrepreneurial process. A number of tangible variables on each organization were coded based on data from interviews, and analysis of artifacts such as the annual reports and published histories. The patterns emerging from the data were compared across the nine cases and those factors common across all the nine cases were retained. Since social entrepreneurship is still a relatively less explored area (Weerawardena and Mort, 2006), an exploratory case study allows our investigation to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events (Yin, 1984) and combined with theory helps to firmly ground our propositions in actual field data.

Since an important consideration in any research study concerning the development of theoretical framework is replicability and generalizability (Yin, 1984), we provide arguments grounded in theory and supported by patterns emerging from interview data to validate the propositions. This inductive theory development grounded in concrete and rich field observations offers us significant insights as compared to just theorizing through deductive means (Langley, 1999). We studied social entrepreneurs who are engaged in the task of social value creation in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan in Western India. Although a major reason for selecting this particular setting was convenience sampling, these areas provide a large homogenous environment for studying a multitude of social entrepreneurs. This sampling strategy also helps in interpreting as well as generalizing the results of the study within context, since most social entrepreneurs face roughly the same constraints and act roughly in the same landscape. Organizations that are classified as non-profit voluntary organizations based in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan in Western India are selected for this study. Organizations were classified as voluntary associations if they are "formally organized, named collectives in which the majority of participants did not derive their livelihood from their activities in the group" (Gartner, 1993). Organizations that were associated with political parties, religious institutions or any existing industrial trading service (registered under Partnership Act and Companies Act1) or their adjuncts were excluded from this study to ensure a purely private social organization. Initially eighteen organizations that fit the criteria mentioned above were selected for the study. Three organizations were dropped from the study. Some of these social organizations had merged with other similar organizations and it was difficult to accurately obtain data about how such organizations originated, while in other cases we could not get the entrepreneurs to schedule interviews with us. However, the eleven non-profit organizations selected for this study

represent diverse areas and serve different clients and some contextual conclusions can be made after analyzing the data. A pilot study was undertaken with two social entrepreneurs who started two organizations; Orphanage, which is a non-profit organization providing food and education; and Transform, which deals with issues of rural development and environment. The pilot study helped to define a structure for the subsequent interviews of social entrepreneurs of the nine remaining organizations. Table 1 shows the non-profit organizations started by social entrepreneurs and the clients that they serve. The researcher used content analysis, to identify discernible factors from qualitative data. Factors were identified from the qualitative data and compared with the concepts and prominent factors were identified. The researcher repeatedly studied these organizations and tried to identify the observable factors and qualities of the entrepreneurs. Personal observations by the researcher helped the researcher in collecting qualitative data.

Results and Analysis

Based on the research findings, the propositions were developed, the raw data was shown to other researchers in the field and their interpretation was also obtained. The issues on which their interpretations were different, were dropped. The issues which were left out, were taken up for further studies.

Example of data:

"We cant reach every-where and so we train other NGOs. They then spread the revolution."--founder--this was interpreted as willingness to spread the cause--and in helping other institutions to develop--thus we looked at other clues to finally arrive at the underlying factor.

"Scavengers were not willing to leave their job. Municipality too was reluctant."..(we persuaded scavengers for higher pay) and persuaded people about the advantage of new system."--entrepreneur

This statement was interpreted as willingness to evolve creative solutions.

Proposition 1: The founder adopts leadership style consisting of trust, empowerment to workers, transparency and openness, and constantly reiterates mission and clarifies it repeatedly to workers. He carefully selects co-workers, generally the persons who can understand and pursue the mission of the organization. The co-workers perceive the entrepreneur as a very committed, development oriented, visionary, hardworking and concerned person. We call this personality as an empathy-altruistic personality. It is positively associated with perception of a social need and an urge to alleviate this need.

A number of theories provide strong support for some stimulus that instigates pro-social behavior among individuals (Coke, Batson, and McDavis, 1978; Toi and Batson, 1982). Scholars have noted that two types of reactions occur when there is a distress caused due to someone being in need (Hoffman, 1975, 1976). One is personal distress which results in egoistic motivation to alleviate this distress while the other is empathy which has been described as a congruent set of vicarious emotions that are focused on others including feelings of sympathy, compassion, tenderness (Coke, Batson, and McDavis, 1978; Toi and Batson, 1982). The empathy-altruism theories posit that empathy evokes altruistic motivations directed towards reducing the suffering of the needy individual. Research at the meso-level of analysis examines helping at the interpersonal level: one person helping other and scholars have categorized this as arousal and affect instigators of altruistic behaviors (Eisenberg, et al., 1989). There is some support in theory that arousal and affect produce two reactions; one, which is empathically induced, produces other oriented cognitions and concern while the other produces feelings of self-focused personal sadness (Feshbach, 1978; Hoffman, 1984). A vivid picture of this other oriented concern can be constructed from the following example; after witnessing class violence in rural areas, two entrepreneurs decided to start Jan Vikas to promote rural development. Likewise, the entrepreneur who started SURE said in the interview "I saw the exploitation of rural artisans working in embroidery and patchwork. In the fields of health and medical facilities, the (rural) areas have suffered a lot." A different arousal and affect stimulus driven by challenge can be seen in case of ESI which was started to test ideas of the entrepreneur in actual practice. Sadvichar Pariwar was started by the entrepreneur due to the influence of his father " father told me to become the inspiration for good work". Similar findings were obtained by Alvord et al., (2002) in their study on non-profit organizations from Asia, Africa and South America where arousal and affect played a significant role in the genesis of the entrepreneurial idea.

Proposition 2: Prior background of the person is quite instrumental in setting up of such institutions. If a person experiences a problem, he / she tends to think about removing the problem for next generation and this becomes the base for setting up an institution. This is called feelings of empathy. Emphathy, driven by some arousal and subsequent affect are positively associated with perception of a social need and an urge to alleviate this need.

It has also been suggested that one of the ways in which empathy-altruistic oriented individuals may attempt to alleviate the perceived need of others is by volunteering (Penner, et al., 2005). Scholars investigating pro-social behaviors such as volunteering have traditionally used two approaches to explain volunteering behaviors. One approach is the functional approach (Snyder, 1993; Omoto and Snyder, 1995) which posits that persons pursue activities that fulfill some perceived need. The other approach uses role-identity theory to explain why people persist in citizenship or volunteering behaviors by proposing that carrying out citizenship or volunteering shapes a person's self concept and this self concept has direct causal effect on future activity (Grube and Piliavin, 2000; Lee, Piliavin and Call, 1999). In recent years, scholars have tried to integrate both these approaches by proposing that while an important antecedent to the initial decision to volunteer is an individual's motive(s), an individual's experiences during volunteering determine his or her role identity which then becomes the proximal cause of further volunteering behavior (Penner, 2002; Penner et al., 2005). Finkelstein, Penner and Brannick (2003) showed that those who are most likely to volunteer or take active part in organization citizenship behaviors are those who have internalized a prosocial role and who strongly feel that others expect them to continue in a manner befitting that role. We find that except for CERC where the entrepreneur was formerly working as a senior manager in a retail industry, all other social entrepreneurs had prior experience volunteering for a social cause. This is best illustrated by the entrepreneur who started Secure, "I was involved in social activities from the beginning"; or the entrepreneur who started ESI who had worked previously as a civic-care volunteer with the local government. The entrepreneur who started AWAG was closely associated with SEWA, a similar non-profit organization dealing with women's issues. We propose that a perceived social need provides the motive for initial volunteering but then role-identity drives the urge to alleviate this social need.

Entrepreneurial Characteristics

In the social context, entrepreneurs use their imaginations to identify opportunities in the social sector where they can create value. Venkataraman (1997) argued that although, many individuals might perceive an opportunity, only a few would be able to only a few might be able to exploit this opportunity by forming their organizations. We believe that in the social context, a similar process occurs; i.e. perceiving a social need is similar to identifying information asymmetries in the social context or identifying limitations of the normal welfare system in satisfying known social problems. However, although many individuals especially those working in the social sector might perceive an unmet social need, only those with creative imaginations may be able to identify a social entrepreneurial opportunity (Chiles, Bluedorn, and Gupta, 2007; Sarasvathy, 2000). We believe that social entrepreneurial opportunity identification in the social context would depend on the creative imagination of entrepreneurs and how they use this creative imagination to innovatively combine existing resources.

This creative imagination serves to surmount the challenges posed by financial shortage, resistance to change or any other shortage of resource or services (Alvord et al., 2002). Similar to the study of social entrepreneurs who started Grameen Bank and SEWA (Alvord et al., 2002) we find that the entrepreneurs in this study focused on developing creative ways of enhancing social value. One way of enhancing social capital is by building capabilities in addition to existing ones. The other way is by creatively recombining existing resources and creating value from them. For example, SURE developed additional capabilities by enlisting the support of a premium design firm in increasing its handicraft sales. The founder of PNR Society overcame the problem of hiring specialized resource teachers by involving the parents of disabled children in their teaching program, thereby combining existing resources (parents in this case to serve as teachers).

Proposition 4: Creative imagination of entrepreneurs helps them recombine exiting resources to create value and this helps the entrepreneurs identify opportunities for creating social value.

As in the recent study of illegal entrepreneurship in Nigeria (Fadahunsi and Rosa, 2002), a common theme in the entrepreneurship literature has been the proactive behaviors of entrepreneurs. Crant (2000) showed how proactive behaviors are strong predictors of entrepreneurial intentions and called for more studies that showed how proactivity resulted in success among practicing entrepreneurs. Proactive behaviors are also pivotal to the formulations of social entrepreneurs as individuals who take charge of their situations to create value (Prabhu, 1999). In this study, we consistently find evidence of proactive behaviors among all the nine entrepreneurs that were studied. CERC held a number of public meetings as well as published their own magazine to promote awareness about consumer rights. Ganatar organized seminars on themes related to child labor and invited schools, colleges and libraries to attend these seminars. The founder of PNR Society participated in many conferences on teaching disabled individuals and kept track of the latest literature in this area. We believe that such proactive behaviors help entrepreneurs identify opportunities for better resource utilizations (Crant, 2000). For example, the use of media publicity by the founder of CERC to highlight the Ford Foundation was a proactive step in swaying some fence-sitting donors.

Proposition 5: Proactive behavior of entrepreneurs helps them realize and identify opportunities for creating social value.

It can be seen form Table 3 that the stories of these social entrepreneurs mirror studies in entrepreneurship in terms of the motivational characteristics of entrepreneurs (Shane et al., 2003). In a social context, we argue that motivation plays an even greater role as compared to for-profit motivation due to the nature of the outcomes obtained at the end of the process. Entrepreneurs differ in their motivation to identify and exploit opportunities (Shane et al., 2003). Shane et al., (2003) identify several motivational traits such as need for achievement, risk taking, tolerance for ambiguity, locus of control, self-efficacy and goal setting that might be components of entrepreneurial motivation3. The organizations started by these entrepreneurs took some time to establish themselves and in this critical time, their ability to seize opportunities through creative imagination helped them achieve success. This is exemplified by Jan Vikas where the entrepreneur faced a long and arduous road in establishing credibility and only the development of a young team gave a boost to the activities. The founders of PNR Society faced problems in gaining grants and land from the local self-government but they availed of an opportunity to nominate their candidates on the governing body and prevailed on the local government to grant them land and funds. The situation faced by Ganatar was also similar with the laborers initially showing reluctance in educating their children but the entrepreneur persisted with his efforts finally getting five children to come to a camp which eventually changed the mindset of the laborers and they became more receptive to the entrepreneur's ideas.

Proposition 6: Entrepreneurial motivation of entrepreneurs helps them realize and identify opportunities for creating social value.

Factors influencing Social Entrepreneurship

It is very important to note that the environment in which the entrepreneurs find themselves plays a very important role in creation of a social venture. In many cases the organizations found social support only after proving their credibility with some success story. This issue of institutional support is a very important issue in the field of entrepreneurship (Venkataraman, 1997). Venkataraman (1997) discusses the relationship between the entrepreneur and the investors and highlights the role that trust and social support plays in the success of an entrepreneurial venture. There has been some research regarding the choice of structure that entrepreneurs use to enhance their performance (Shan, 1990; Mosakowski, 1991). Many institutional scholars suggest that most firms move towards greater organization in order to improve performance (Suchman 1995). It can be seen that for a social entrepreneur, social support (Alvord, Brown, and Letts, 2004) in the form of volunteers and philanthropic contributions plays a role that is similar to the role played by venture capitalists and business angels for the traditional for-profit entrepreneur. In general, a move towards greater professionalism and organization conveys greater trust among investors and they are more willing to extend support to the entrepreneur. In case of CERC after successfully fighting against increased bus fares, they could secure grant from the Ford foundation. In many cases the social support was from known associates or volunteers. In this study we found that large social organizations with a long history such as BPA, ESI and CERC regularly sent their representatives to national and international seminars in their focus areas, while smaller organizations interacted with regional or national organizations. The move towards more professional management in case of PNR Society or taking the help of National Institute of Design in case of SURE can be seen as attempts at gaining and establishing credibility for the services provided by the social organizations. Almost all the organizations that were studied showed varying degrees of moves aimed at imparting more professionalism in their management of resources. For example at BPA, the entrepreneurs actively sought advice from experts and professionals about the latest available tools to aid blind and disabled individuals. These efforts gradually helped them gain greater recognition from the government and other funding agencies. The efforts at gaining credibility not only help the organizations overcome the 'liability of newness' (Suchman, 1995) but also help them gain more grants and funds in effect generating greater social capital.

Characteristics of the Organizations Studied

(i) The organisation exhibits transparency (CERC), openness, autonomy and trust. The founder displays a very high level of trust on co-workers (SP, Blind Men's Association)

(ii) The founder and co-workers feel that they are working for sacred cause. Often they believe that God has bestowed an opportunity on them to work for the betterment of masses (SP). On the other hand they may do it as a fulfilment of their duty or as a sense of accomplishment (Vikas Vartul Trust, CERC).

(iii) There is an environment of team-work in these organisations. However, the individual who actually works, gets the credit of that work (Vikas Vartul Trust, Blind Men's Association). However, a few organisations may not encourage recognition, as the work itself is the ultimate reward for them (SP).

(iv) The founder is fully involved in all important activities of the organisation and devotes himself thoroughly (All organisations).

(v) The organisations studied generally had a relatively non-hierarchical organisation structure (JV) the organisation promotes values of democracy (AWAG), secularism (AWAG) and equality (JV, PNR, SURE, AWAG). The institutions acted in the direction of changing values of society by adopting radical or traditional roles (ESI, AWAG, JV, PNR, SURE). The institution challenges the traditional beliefs of the society in a subtle form by organising and motivating masses. The methods of changing values of society have varied from organising lectures (CERC) to radical and harsh steps like Dharanas (AWAG, ESI etc.).

A Framework of Social Entrepreneurship

In this section we combine insights gleaned from both theory and our qualitative data to put forward a framework for studying social entrepreneurship. In this framework, we use the theories developed to explain the motivations of pro-social behaviors to propose a meso-level stimulus that helps individuals perceive a social need. This meso-level influence results in individuals engaging in behaviors to mitigate this need. In this framework for social entrepreneurship, we propose that this mitigation may take two forms, one where individuals engage in some volunteer activity and the other where they perceive a necessity of a social enterprise in satisfying a particular social need. It is necessary to have altruistic personality in order for the outcomes of volunteering or forming a social organization to materialize since arousal can also stimulate feelings of sadness (Cialdini, et al., 1997) and nervousness (Hornstein, 1982) that might lead to egoistically motivated helping in order to relieve one's own negative emotional state (Batson, 1998). Many scholars have investigated the consequences of volunteering in terms of creation of social capital (Alvord, Brown, and Letts, 2004; Bolino, Turnley, and Bloodgood, 2002). The study by Finkelsteain and Penner (2004) revealed that sustained performance of citizenship behaviors such as volunteerism and pro-social actions develops a volunteer role identity that becomes the pivotal motivator for even further volunteering activities akin to a positive selfreinforcing cycle. The motivation and desire to alleviate a social need are not the only requirements for creation of the social enterprise. Social entrepreneurship is a process where social entrepreneurs realize there is an opportunity to satisfy some unmet need that the normal welfare system cannot meet, and who recombine resources in innovative ways (human, financial and material) to fill this void (Thompson, Alvy, and Lees, 2000). The social entrepreneurship framework developed here incorporates the opportunity identification phase of entrepreneurship by considering micro-level influences such as creative imagination, motivation and proactive personality. All the three are important as they provide the tools needed for the creation of a social enterprise. The other macro factors like social support and institutional forces mainly serve to guide the formation of a social enterprise and mitigate the effects of preemptive death (Suchman, 1995) by providing the initial efforts with legitimacy (Powell and DiMaggio, 1991). The multilevel model agrees with the conceptualization of social entrepreneurship as proposed by Mort et al., (2003) which states that individual entrepreneurial traits do not really capture the complete process of social entrepreneurship as the environment in which these entrepreneurs operate plays a very important role in determining the success of an entrepreneurial venture. The researcher has found a certain growth pattern among the organizations studied. This growth pattern is an indication of the institution building path, which need further studies. From the researchers carried out in the nine organisations studied, the researcher has been able to identify a growth path which is presented in Figure 1.


The research has brought to surface the aspects like creative imagination, altruistic personality, willingness to start small, institutional support, social framework and volunteerism as the main components in social entrepreneurship. The founder exhibited characteristics which could enable him to be a successful social entrepreneur. Further research and inquiry presented as that these institutions were moving towards becoming role models for other NGOs or voluntary organizations. The researcher has studied social entrepreneurship as a model. The researcher found out that this research model has applicability in NGOs and voluntary organisations. This research model can help the organisations in strategy formulation and policy formulation.


As proposed by many scholars (Mort et al., 2003), a multi-level approach extends our current understanding of social entrepreneurship and takes an important step towards a more holistic understanding of this important phenomenon. Since entrepreneurship is a process rather than a one-shot act (Shane, 2000), broad questions that addressed areas such as origin of the idea, creativity of the idea, decision-making and future goals of the social entrepreneurs were used to arrive at common themes for the social entrepreneurship framework. The social entrepreneurship framework that was generated from both the qualitative data as well as a theoretical extension of the altruism empathy pro-social theories agrees well with patterns found in similar studies of social entrepreneurs (Alvord et al., 2002; Handy, et al., 2002). This research into social entrepreneurship indicates that multi-level understanding is necessary in studying this type of entrepreneurship. A qualitative study affords us a chance to look at real responses from real individuals and as such helps in the initial stages of theory development. In this paper, The researcher has heeded to the call of entrepreneurship researchers for studies on social entrepreneurship that look at multiple dimensions with a view to gaining a deeper understanding of the subject (Mair and Noboa, 2003). The attributes of social entrepreneurial leaders identified by Prabhu (1999) such as values, pursuit of mission, flexibility and trust in co-workers were all present in every social entrepreneur that was interviewed. We believe that this is a consequence of empathy-altruism hypothesis as stated in the literature of pro-social behaviors (Bolino et al., 2002; Batson, 1991). Since for social entrepreneurs 'making a difference' in the lives of their constituent focus groups is the primary mission (Brown and Covey, 1987; Dees, 1998; Sarasvathy and Wicks, 2003), we believe that a framework of social entrepreneurship firmly rooted in the theoretical foundation of prosocial behaviors is a necessity. We believe that this difference between the theoretical underpinnings of social and for-profit entrepreneurship is manifested through observed differences in ownership, values, mission salience, and measures of success (Dees, 1998; Thompson, 2002).

The results of this study also reveled themes that were common among the entrepreneurs of these social organizations that were hitherto not considered in the grounded theory model of social entrepreneurship. Although these deal primarily with the leadership aspects associated with social entrepreneurs, it is very important to study and identify these common characteristics. It was very evident from the qualitative interviews with the co-workers about the transformational leadership of social entrepreneurs. The interviews with these entrepreneurs served to illustrate the point that these entrepreneurs were committed to changing their environments (Prabhu, 1999; Brown, and Covey, 1987) and not just creating acceptable financial value for a service or product. The role of leadership is further highlighted by the intense level of motivation in the cause that the social entrepreneur imbibes among the volunteers and employees. All the social entrepreneurs worked under self-imposed ethical norms, which were also taken up by the other volunteers credibility for the organization in the society. The other important characteristic of social entrepreneurs is the autonomy given to their volunteers and co-workers. This was contrary to previous formulations of social entrepreneurs as having high locus of control individuals (Prabhu, 1999). This is very evident from the mission of Jan Vikas, which is to branch out into a number of non-hierarchical independent units that work autonomously from the parent organization. As the researcher has noted earlier, this is a modest step at gaining an understanding of social entrepreneurship in a more generic sense. The researcher has tried to identify similar patterns among a sample of social entrepreneurs working in diverse functional areas although in relatively same environments.


In this paper, we developed a framework for social entrepreneurship which was rooted both in theoretical foundations of pro-social behaviors and ethnographic data from field studies of social entrepreneurs. Prior studies (Alvord et al., 2002; Mair and Noboa, 2003) argue that some people recognize a social need and feel an obligation to assuage that need. However, this by itself is not enough as entrepreneurs need to use their creative imagination to bring their vision into reality (Sarasvathy, 2000). In the social entrepreneurship context, we found that innovation guided by proactive behaviors, motivation and the willingness of entrepreneurs to start small determines the level of success of the social enterprise. Other factors like social support did not find a unanimous support in the initial stages of enterprise creation; nonetheless all the entrepreneurs were engaged in some sort of institutional behaviors aimed at establishing legitimacy to gain social support. The results showed that engaging in behaviors such as getting a professional management or reputed sponsors led to more social support in the form of grants and funds.

Future work needs to look at generalizing the patterns of ethical and moral values in social entrepreneurship. The researcher has deliberately not investigated the 'socially responsible' for profit entrepreneurs since they are distinguished by their prior entrepreneurial experiences and the availability of funds for their social ventures, although their impact on social value creation cannot be ignored. The study of both for profit entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship would benefit from future research into the means by which entrepreneurs transform their vision of a productive future into a reality by using their creative imaginations. The researcher believe this is where the focus of much entrepreneurial research should be applied. There also exist a number of promising avenues for future research in identifying mechanisms by which macro factors like social structures, culture, and governance structures intervene in changing the outcome of the entrepreneurial process.


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Trilok Kumar Jain

* Afterschoool Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Bikaner--334001, Rajasthan, India

* E-mail:
Table 1: Products and Services offered by Drishtee

Name of Main Area Other Activities
Organisation of Work

AWAG Women's awareness Sale of handicrafts
 made by women

BMA Blind & handicapped Sale of articles
 made by handicapped

CERC Consumer education Sale of journal etc.
 and protection

PNR Society Deaf-dumb, polio, Training handicapped,
 handicapped printing press

SURE Rural development n.a.

ESI Sanitation, Bhangi Oil mills, Khadi
 mukti, sanitation organisations
 awareness / training

Jan Vikas Rural development n.a.

Ganatar Child labour- n.a.
 education etc.

Sadvichar Relief / noble Printing press,
Pariwar thoughts / health / khadi organisations,
 rural development school

Name of Name of founder Year-Estd.

AWAG Ms. Ilaben Pathak 1980

BMA Mr. Jagdish Bhai Patel 1950

CERC Mr. Manubhai Shah 1978

PNR Society Mr. Anant Bhai Shah 1970

SURE Mr. Magraj Jain 1990

ESI Mr. Ishwar Bhai Patel 1963

Jan Vikas Mr. Gagan Sethi 1986

Ganatar Mr. Sukhdev 1990

Sadvichar Mr. Haribhai Panchal 1949
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Author:Jain, Trilok Kumar
Publication:Asia-Pacific Business Review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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