Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship

To Act as if and Make a Difference

Björn Bjerke and Mathias Karlsson

This informative book examines some social entrepreneurs in practice in several countries whilst concentrating on entrepreneurs in the third sector. The authors call them citizen entrepreneurs. Such people are not only becoming more common but also more necessary in the world of today.

Chapter 5: Public entrepreneurship – what is it?

Björn Bjerke and Mathias Karlsson

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


We have on several occasions mentioned the concepts ‘public entrepreneur’ and ‘public entrepreneurship’. Let us devote this chapter to more precisely describe what, and start by describing what they are not. A public entrepreneur is not the same as the American discourse concerning social entrepreneurship. Much (if not most) research on social entrepreneurship is done in the US and the American social entrepreneurship discourse, like the narrow (American) view on entrepreneurship in general, is very dominant, even outside the US. Social entrepreneurship in the US (as well as elsewhere) is based, of course, on prevailing social circumstances at a place, and on the role social entrepreneurs are seen to occupy in society. Catford (1998, p. 97) serves well as an illustration of how the ‘problem’ is phrased: Traditional welfare-state approaches are in decline globally, and in response new ways of creating healthy and sustainable communities are required. This challenges our social, economic and political systems to respond with new, creative, effective environments that support and reward change. From the evidence available, current examples of social entrepreneurship offer exciting new ways of realizing the potential of individuals and communities into the 21st century. The ideal model that is ruling the discussion of ‘social entrepreneurship’ in the US is one where millionaire CEOs, retiring from their professional careers, or owners who have sold their businesses and made a handsome profit, move into the ‘non-profit sector’ and apply their former successful business ways to solve social problems. ‘Increasingly, entrepreneurially minded nonprofit leaders

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