Societal Entrepreneurship

Societal Entrepreneurship

Positioning, Penetrating, Promoting

Edited by Karin Berglund, Bengt Johannisson and Birgitta Schwartz

Stating the importance of both the local and the broader societal context, the book reports close-up studies from a variety of social ventures. Generic themes include positioning societal entrepreneurship against other images of collective entrepreneurship, critically penetrating its assumptions and practices and proposing ways of promoting societal entrepreneurship more widely.

Chapter 7: Dark and bright effects of a polarized entrepreneurship discourse . . . and the prospects of transformation

Karin Berglund and Anders W. Johansson

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, development studies, social entrepreneurship, politics and public policy, social entrepreneurship


Early in the morning of Tuesday 26 May 2009 a helicopter took off from the ground close by the largest sports arena in Sweden, the Globe. In a rope underneath the helicopter a ten-square-meter red house with white gables was swinging. When the helicopter made a sudden move, making the house oscillate, the crowd of about 70 people gathered at the ground went completely silent presumably visioning a possible crash at the ‘Nynäsvägen’ motorway in the Stockholm morning traffic. However, everything went well. The helicopter could successfully place the house on the top of the Globe, where it was anchored in a pre-made frame by the five climbers waiting. At this point I recall one of the people in the crowd reflecting on the idea of decorating this red house with IKEA furniture and wondering if that would not be an outstanding symbol of Sweden. The above episode is told by one the authors of this chapter, who was witnessing the spectacular event when a prototype of the Moon House was placed on top of the Globe arena in Stockholm. The spontaneous reflection of one of her fellow witnesses to connect the Moon House with IKEA is in this chapter taken as a point of departure for comparing two in many ways very different expressions and cases of societal entrepreneurship. As will be illustrated, these two cases also share some similarities. However, from interpreting the cases from the perspective of a polarizing entrepreneurship discourse–sometimes denoting the bright and at other times the dark shades of entrepreneurship–this chapter winds up with an unexpected proposal. Whilst societal entrepreneurship may clear the way for novel ways of perceiving entrepreneuring as a cross-sectoral phenomenon, it may also be subsumed by contemporary understandings of ‘traditional’ entrepreneurship. At stake is how to view the entrepreneur, success and activity emanating from processes of societal entrepreneurship.

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