Theory and Empirical Research in Social Entrepreneurship

Theory and Empirical Research in Social Entrepreneurship

The Johns Hopkins University series on Entrepreneurship

Edited by Phillip H. Phan, Jill Kickul, Sophie Bacq and Mattias Nordqvist

Scholars and policy makers have long recognized entrepreneurship as a powerful engine of economic growth. There is clear evidence, however, that when it comes to social entrepreneurship, policy attention has not been matched by growth in scholarly research. This volume illustrates the type of empirical effort that must take place for the field to advance.

Chapter 5: An empirical analysis of the missions, funding sources, and survival of social ventures

Albert V. Bruno, Jennifer L. Woolley and Eric D. Carlson

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship


Social entrepreneurship increasingly garners interest from both the public and academics. Social entrepreneurs have been characterized as being at 'the vanguard (of the) worldwide transformation to improve the quality of life and standard of living around the world,' (Zahra et al., 2008: 117). Research to understand social ventures is described as a nascent, yet promising endeavor (Dacin et al., 2010; Short et al., 2009). As an emerging research area, many articles discuss the definitions of social venture and social entrepreneur (Dacin et al., 2010; Dees, 1998; Mair and Marti, 2006; Peredo and McLean, 2006; Short et al., 2009; Zahra et al.. 2009). Short and colleagues (2009) found that a fifth of the work on social entrepreneurship published between 1991 and 2009 focused on descriptions or definitions of the construct. However, as the field weighs the scope of social entrepreneurship and the concepts therein, little empirical work has been published (Weerawardena and Mort, 2006). Work is beginning to coalesce around a few key concepts. First, social ventures 'are sustainable only through the revenue and capital that they generate; thus, their financial concerns must be balanced equally with social ones' (Dacin et al., 2010: 45; Webb et al., 2009). Hence, to survive, a social venture must create both economic and social value. Second, the main distinguishing characteristics of social ventures are their funding or revenue sources and their missions (Florin and Schmidt, 2011; Woolley et al., forthcoming).

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