Chapter 10: Social Entrepreneurship in the UK: From Rhetoric to Reality?
Paola Grenier INTRODUCTION 10.1 A growing band of social entrepreneurs, working at the grass roots of the welfare system in the space between the public and private sector, are developing innovative answers to many of Britain’s most pressing social problems. Social entrepreneurs are leading innovation in the most dynamic parts of the voluntary sector and on the edge of the public sector, often with the help of private sector partners. They frequently use business methods to ﬁnd new solutions to problems such as homelessness, drug dependency and joblessness. They create innovative services by taking under-utilised resources – particularly buildings and people – to address social needs left unmet by the public sector or the market. (Leadbeater, 1997: back cover) In the mid to late 1990s, the idea that individual ‘social entrepreneurs’ were critical to the successful tackling of social problems started to be taken seriously in policy circles in the UK. Social entrepreneurs were presented as similar to business entrepreneurs – visionary individuals with the drive, passion and skills that are generally associated with the private sector. Social entrepreneurs, however, were credited with creating social value and public beneﬁt rather than private wealth, most often through non-proﬁt or voluntary action. They were presented as a new kind of innovative leader, transforming existing institutions and introducing much needed social change at all levels of society. They were promoted as central to the modernisation of welfare and the eﬀective provision of social services, especially in tackling those social issues where the state...
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