Social entrepreneurship continues to receive significant attention in the academy, practice, and public conversation. As an emerging field, the literature reflects varying perspectives on the topic but offers little on the understanding of the experience of social entrepreneurship. Using van Manen's (1997) approach to structuring human science research, I used hermeneutic phenomenology to answer the question, "What is it like to be a social entrepreneur?" A new definition of the work of a social entrepreneur was developed to assist in screening. Eleven social entrepreneurs, representing ten organizations, participated in in-depth interviews transcribed into texts. During the interviews, participants shared experiences reflecting their thoughts, ideas, and feelings about the experience of social entrepreneurship. The texts were analyzed, the results verified with the participants, and needed adjustments made. Three main theme categories were revealed: origins; living the life; and looking forward. Eight themes and 13 subthemes included: (a) personal experience and impactful events as preparation; awareness of community need, and need for change; self-knowledge; tolerance for risk and change, and action orientation (b) integration of business and social principles into structure; personal engagement; defining moments: demands and complexities of the role; relationship aspects; dealing with uncertainty and interaction with outside entities (c) leadership awareness; changing roles and sustainability. The insights gained provide opportunity for practice enhancements and further research on the importance of social need as part of opportunity identification, leadership development in social entrepreneurship, new roles with philanthropy, and the development of metrics to measure effectiveness and support sustainability. Practice implications include opportunity for new models of community support, teaching of social entrepreneurship and greater involvement of HRD in both practice and leadership. Opportunity exits to expand on the definition of social entrepreneurship.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2012. Major: Education, Work/Community/Family Education. Advisor: Gary N. McLean. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 234 pages. Appendices A-C.
Bailey, Jeanne Marie.
Committed to entrepreneurial activity and social mission: what is the experience of social entrepreneurship.
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