Enterprising Social Innovation: The Intersection of Two Schools of Practice and Thought

In “Framing a Theory of Social Entrepreneurship: Building on Two Schools of Practice and Thought,” J. Gregory Dees and Beth Battle Anderson contend that in order to capitalize on the momentum around social entrepreneurship and stimulate promising theory development, we must be guided by both practical and intellectual considerations. This paper suggests a way of framing this new field of inquiry that builds upon the rich work of reflective practitioners who have led the way thus far and that raises a distinctive set of intellectual questions that cut across disciplinary boundaries. Specifically, the authors claim that the best way of framing this new field lies at the intersection of the two dominant schools of practice and thought: the Social Enterprise School and the Social Innovation School.

Distinguishing Characteristics of the Social Enterprise School:

• Grounded in an understanding of entrepreneurship that defines entrepreneurs as individuals who start their own businesses” (Bhide)
• Focused on the generation of “earned-income” to serve a social mission
• “Sector-bending,” blurring the lines between the business and social sectors
• Experimentation with market-based solutions to social problems that seek to align economic and social value creation

Distinguishing Characteristics of the Social Innovation School:

• Grounded in an understanding of entrepreneurship that defines entrepreneurs as innovators who carry out “new combinations” that “reform or revolutionize the pattern of production” (Schumpeter)
• Focused on establishing new and better ways to address social problems or meet social needs.
• Not defined around organizational structure, i.e. nonprofit or for-profit
• Often incorporates themes of effecting large scale, lasting, and systemic change

The paper argues that the most promising arena for academic inquiry lies at the intersection of these schools of practice and thought, around “enterprising social innovation,” which Dees and Anderson define as carrying out innovations that blend methods from the worlds of business and philanthropy to create social value that is sustainable and has the potential for large-scale impact. This framing has the greatest potential for practical relevance, societal impact, and intellectual inquiry. It forces us to acknowledge the intimate connection between social and economic realities and the role of markets in the social sector. It also challenges the artificial barriers between business and the nonprofit sector. Thus, this framing has the potential to raise theoretically interesting questions and engage a broad range of st work in social marketing, corporate social engagement, and economic behavior. cholars across diverse disciplines and domains, linking well with recen

Selected Theoretically Interesting Areas of Inquiry:

• Aligning Market Dynamics with Social Outcomes.
• Strengths and Limits of Different Economic Strategies (philanthropic and commercial).
• Role of Different Legal Forms of Organization.
• Bias Toward Commercial Market Solutions.
• Competitive Advantage of Social Orientation.
• Market Discipline and Accountability.
• Efficiency in the Social Sector Capital Markets.

Copies of the entire volume in which this article appears, Research on Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding and Contributing to an Emerging Field, are free to 2006 ARNOVA members or can be purchased from ARNOVA for $25. For more information, see http://www.arnova.org/new_volume.php.