Handbook of Research Methods on Social Entrepreneurship
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Handbook of Research Methods on Social Entrepreneurship

Edited by Richard Seymour

Defining ‘social entrepreneurship’ has in the past proved problematic, and debate continues concerning what it does and does not entail and encompass. This unique book frames the debates surrounding the phenomenon and argues that many of the difficulties relating to the study of social entrepreneurship are rooted in methodological issues. Highlighting these issues, the book sets out ideas and implications for researchers using alternative methodologies.
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Chapter 1: Understanding the Social in Social Entrepreneurship

Richard G. Seymour


Richard G. Seymour This chapter introduces the phenomenon of ‘social entrepreneurship’, highlighting that though not new in practice, it is certainly enjoying heightened attention in academic research. It then explores the meanings of the ‘social’ in social entrepreneurship, noting that ‘social entrepreneurship’ or ‘social enterprise’ are essentially umbrella terms for a considerable range of activities, some of which might be better considered as businesses, some of which might be better considered as charities. The chapter then proposes a working definition of social entrepreneurship to resolve the confusion over these activities. 1.1 AN OVERVIEW OF THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP PHENOMENON There is a growing awareness, both within and outside the sector, of the significance and importance of social entrepreneurship. This awareness (some might refer to it as a buzz) has both positive and negative implications. Before entering the debate about what is and is not social entrepreneurship, some cursory conceptualisations of the different concepts are in order. This chapter will work towards a definition of social entrepreneurship that is both pragmatic and meaningful. The first step towards that definition is a simple conceptualisation of the various business, activist and entrepreneurial activities, as shown in Figure 1.1. Figure 1.1 is drawn to suggest two things: that social entrepreneurship can be differentiated from its cousins based on its means as well as its ends. First, it suggests that entrepreneurial activity, whether social or commercial, is associated with doing new things or doing those things ‘differently’ (means). This impression of ‘difference’ is sometimes referred to...

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