Chapter 1: Opportunities for social entrepreneurship: an analysis of the social sector in six Midwest US areas
Bornstein and Davis (2010) introduced their book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know with a statement that is especially timely and relevant to this study. The authors stated, ‘The subject [social entrepreneurship] spans so much activity today that no small book can adequately cover it’ (p. xi). In this chapter, we have attempted not to cover the entire subject of social entrepreneurship, but rather to direct our research on one of the earliest parts of the process: entrepreneurial opportunities and the social sector context in which they occur. Currently, little is known about how social entrepreneurs recognize, explore or exploit opportunities. Few, if any previous studies have focused on the social sector context and its potential impact on entrepreneurial opportunities. As an emerging field of study, social entrepreneurship researchers often borrow frameworks or theories developed in other disciplines to help guide their work. In similar fashion, we used research frameworks and adapted definitions previously developed in the commercial entrepreneurship literature to better fit this study of social entrepreneurship. The scale of this chapter required delimiting our study to the social sector context as defined by organizations designated ‘501(c)(3) charitable organizations’ by the US government, and focused on six Midwest US cities. These organizations represent a subset of not-for-profit organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provide social services in the US. Since the study is confined to one area of the US, we assumed that environmental factors such as socio-political, cultural, economic and governmental were comparatively constant and that smaller variations in context would be attributed to variations in the number and size of the charitable organizations in the social sector.
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