The Johns Hopkins University series on Entrepreneurship
Edited by Phillip H. Phan, Jill Kickul, Sophie Bacq and Mattias Nordqvist
Chapter 3: A theoretical model for understanding the scalability of social impact
Scientific interest in social entrepreneurship is growing (Dacin et al., 2010; Short et al., 2009; Zahra et al., 2009). Like traditional entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs see an opportunity to satisfy some unmet need, establish new organizations, develop and implement respective programs, and organize or distribute new products or services. They set themselves apart from traditional entrepreneurs primarily by following a social mission and by focusing on social needs—in areas such as education, welfare, the environment, and health care—that the state and the private sector do not or cannot adequately meet (Austin et al., 2006). To accomplish their social mission, social enterprises generally aim to maximize their social impact (for example, Sherman, 2006). They do so by maximizing social well-being of their targeted "underserved, neglected, or highly disadvantaged population" (Martin and Osberg, 2007: 35). The complexity of efficiently and effectively scaling social impact (the raison d'etre of the firm), though, is a challenge for social enterprises (Bloom and Smith, 2010; Bradach, 2003; Dees et al., 2004). This explains why the investigation into key conditions that enhance or limit the potential for scaling the impact of social enterprises has generated great interest in the theory and practice of social entrepreneurship equally (Bloom and Smith, 2010; Jenkins and Ishikawa, 2010; Sherman, 2006).
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