Discourses of Social Entrepreneurship – Variations of the same theme?

Lars HULGÅRD, 2010

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Resumo :

Why has social entrepreneurship managed to attract so much attention in recent years? Why is it

a rapidly expanding field of interest across all sectors in contemporary society? In the

commercial market sector, social entrepreneurship is closely related to - and yet different from -

such corporate strategies as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Corporate Social Innovation

(CSI) and the Triple Bottom Line. In the public sector, social entrepreneurship is related to an

experimental turn in social policy and planning that has been taking place in European countries

and the EU since the 1980s; we see this both in relation to urban planning (which is now

emphasising collaborative planning and local capacity building) and in participatory socialpolicies. In social policy, the poverty programs launched by the EU pioneered, together with pilot

programs in a number of European countries, the interest in making social policy more

responsive to the participation of both street-level workers and ordinary citizens. In the third

sector, social entrepreneurship is related in Europe to a transition within non-profit organisations

and voluntary associations, which evolve in the direction of becoming agents on a market and

providers of welfare services, and in the USA to a dramatic growth in the impact of the third

sector since the mid-1980s.

Research on social entrepreneurship was, in its initial phase, driven in the USA and Europe by

practitioners and researchers partly with common approaches and understandings and partly with

some major distinctions. As such, the field is composed of a mixture of common trends and

backgrounds, on the one hand, and of a considerable amount of variation in the ways social

entrepreneurship is emerging, on the other hand; this variation is the result of changing balances

and relations between state, market and civil society in the provision of welfare services and

work integration in the USA and Europe.

After defining social entrepreneurship, we will first discuss two common features in the current

intensive interest, among academics, experts and policy makers, in social enterprises and social

entrepreneurship as a way of renewing the welfare state and most of all a way of reframing the

balance between the three sectors - state, market and civil society. We will then stress some basic

variations between powerful mainstream discourses of social entrepreneurship in respectively the

USA and Europe. Finally we will conclude by emphasising that benefits can be gained, from both

the common trends and the variations, by developing a method of transatlantic social

entrepreneurship learning.

Fontes :

© EMES European Research Network 2010

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