Entrepreneurship and Context
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Entrepreneurship and Context

Friederike Welter

This book identifies Friederike Welter’s key contribution to entrepreneurship research over recent decades, and shows how her work is contextualised in time and place. The book gives a differentiated understanding of entrepreneurship and contexts, celebrating diversity as well as complexity.
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Chapter 16: Creative Forces for Entrepreneurship: The Role of Institutional Change Agents

Friederike Welter and David Smallbone

Abstract

The paper reviews the current discussion on institutional change and institutional entrepreneurship. Specifically, it focuses on institutional change agents, by which we mean individuals whose actions can be shown to have contributed to formal or informal institutional change, to the benefit of the wider economy or society as well as to themselves. It aims to explore their antecedents and behaviours, and the contingent factors contributing to institutional change, both intentionally and unintentionally. We find that the concept of institutional entrepreneurship does not provide an adequate conceptual underpinning for incorporating human agency into institutionalised theory. We therefore argue that a focus on “institutional change agents may be more productive. Whilst institutional theory recognizes the impact of institutions on entrepreneurs and individuals, this paper draws attention to the role of human agency for institutional change. Institutional change can happen intentionally and as an unintended by-product of entrepreneurial or organisational ‘path-dependent’ behaviour. The implication of this is that it is not only intentional behaviour which contributes to institutional change, but rather any entrepreneurial behaviour which implicitly or explicitly questions existing institutions. Thus, the paper adds to the current debate on institutional entrepreneurship.

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