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.


Philip H. Phan

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship


In this volume, we find in many ways that the fundamental questions related to the rationale and definitions of social entrepreneurship are still very much a work in progress. Earlier literature reviews state that 'provid[ing] a clear definition of social entrepreneurship or draw[ing] its conceptual and operational borders are still very challenging tasks' (Johnson, 2007). The main characteristics emerging from the theoretical and empirical discussions in this volume exemplify such complexity. Although we focused on the rationale for social entrepreneurship, its opportunities and limitations, reconciling the elements and terms embraced within the studies has not been a straightforward task since earlier attempts towards consolidating the research findings are rare. The research questions in this volume are linked. We were interested in the roles played by various actors in the social entrepreneurial economy, and the selection criteria that these actors, as such social venture funds and government, use in determining whether they should participate. We were also interested in the roles that various actors played in fostering system change, defined as the achievement of a new, stable equilibrium, and their aims for social impact, which we understand as the societal value that the enterprise creates as assessed by impact measurement methods. To make future research generalizable, we offered a theoretical framework, based on social exchange theory to explain the roles of nongovernment organizations as social entrepreneurs.

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