Title: Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship Research and Theory
Authors: Maria Granados, Vlatka Hlupic, Elayne Coakes, & Souad Mohamed
Research question: Check out any major news publication that reports on current affairs, and there is a good chance that you will stumble across the term social entrepreneurship, social enterprise or some other alternate version of the concept. Social entrepreneurs strive to address some of today’s biggest social issues. Where others see problems, they see opportunities. Social entrepreneurship as a recognized field of study is growing, but how mature is it?
Study Design: Granados, Hlupic, Coakes and Mohamed aimed to answer this question using bibliometrics, a methodology that quantitatively analyzes academic literature. Through the use of data on both the number of published articles and the content within articles, bibliometrics can offer important insights regarding the state of a field.
To get an overview of the social enterprise/social entrepreneurship publication landscape, the authors of Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship Research and Theory searched the terms "Social Enterprise" and "Social Entrepreneur" in three international databases. Honing in on publications from 1991 to 2010, they initially found 1,343 papers. After sifting through duplicate records and limiting texts to English and Spanish, they filtered the batch down to 284 items.
Findings: The findings support the notion that social entrepreneurship is an emerging field of interest, as the authors noted a 425% spike in the number of publications in 2005, and steady increases since then. In terms of preferred research strategy, the vast majority of studies were categorized as theoretical, suggesting the field is still at an early stage of development.
Perhaps reflective of social entrepreneurial practices, which emphasize collaboration, about 59% of the articles were co-authored. The study also revealed a collaborative pattern among academic researchers and those working more directly "on the ground" and in the field. The authors of the study speculated that this could be an indictor of a future trend in which practitioners and scholars conduct research together.
Most articles were published within management and business journals, with a focus on enterprise and less emphasis on the social components of social entrepreneurship. Typically, articles in fields such as education and the social sciences focused on social issues as opposed to enterprise.
Moving Forward: Considering the growing number of innovators addressing problems within the education sector, the set of approaches and techniques associated with social entrepreneurship has the potential to contribute to the transformation of the 21st century learning landscape. Those working in education and educational research also have the opportunity to contribute to the social entrepreneurship knowledge base by enhancing the social components of the social entrepreneurship literature.
Image: Social entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (via Wikimedia Commons.)