University of St.Gallen
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Social Entrepreneurship

abstract Social entrepreneurship has emerged as a potential new way to combat social issues by the application of business methods to achieve financial sustainability seeking to create social impact. The term social entrepreneurship suggests that entrepreneurship may be aiming to benefit society rather than maximizing individual profits. It seems to promise an altruistic form of capitalism that does not evaluate all human activities in business terms (Tan, Williams, & Tan, 2005). Drucker (1986) was among the first to notice a transition from early bureaucratic and monopolistic to entrepreneurial, competitive, and innovative social organizations. He stated that the best management practices and most innovative methods will not come out of Global Fortune 500 corporations, but from social non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross or the Girl Scouts (Drayton, 2002). Social entrepreneurship is a current topic in business and society. Research in the domain is emerging as an area for academic inquiry. Literature is fragmented and lacking a coherent theoretical framework (Hockerts, 2006; Short, Moss, & Lumpkin, 2009; Weerawardena & Mort, 2006; Zahra, Gedajlovic, Neubaum, & Shulman, 2009). There is a dominance of qualitative single and multiple case study analyses based on explorative anecdotal evidence and a lack of quantitative research to confirm or discard propositions that have been generated qualitatively or conceptually by previous studies (Dacin, Dacin, & Matear, 2010). With some exceptions (e.g., Desa, 2008; Weber & Kratzer, 2009), no larger empirical studies have been conducted in this field so far (Moss, Lumpkin, & Short, 2008). Of particular importance for the academic field is the attempt to understand (i) the strategic orientations of social ventures along the double bottom line of their social and economic agenda (Dees & Anderson, 2006; Zahra et al., 2009), (ii) the antecedents of social entrepreneurial intention formation (Ajzen, 1991; Krueger, Reilly, & Carsrud, 2000; Mair & Noboa, 2006), and (iii) the impact of social and traditional entrepreneurial intentions on opportunity exploitation in comparison (Baum, Locke, & Smith, 2001; Shane, Locke, & Collins, 2003; Shepherd & Zacharakis, 1999).

The area of research for this dissertation is social entrepreneurship, and each of the three research projects in Chapter B, C, and D has its own independent research agenda with its own autonomous research questions, sample, methods, et cetera. All of the chapters are self-contained, they do not build on each other. Therefore, the respective results, implications, or limitations of each chapter are not repeated here as they are presented in detail within each chapter but rather the highlights of the findings are briefly described.

The research project presented in Chapter B: Typologies of Social Ventures was conducted with a sample of 303 applicants from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, abstracted from 414 social ventures with 26,910 assessment points. The sample consisted of internationally renowned social entrepreneurs from sixty-two countries. The quantitative research approach was based on secondary data from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. To execute the analyses, factor analyses were used to generate the two core dimensions financial stability and degree of innovation. Hereafter, the author conducted a two-step cluster analysis to identify and confirm data structures found in literature. With this research, the author provides strong empirical evidence for the existence and the validity of the two dominant research streams as well as the third, hybrid stream proposed by Dees and Anderson (2003). We found that social ventures are driven either by financials, innovativeness, or both at the same time. Through descriptive statistics, a more details view on the person behind the well-publicized cases of heroic social entrepreneurs is provided.

The research demonstrated in Chapter C: Social Entrepreneurial Intention Formation was carried out with an international sample of 159 social entrepreneurs, who were active volunteers in the disaster response team at Deutsche Post DHL. This case-based quantitative research approach was backed by primary data collection in 2009. The data was collected at three hubs; it constitutes of 37 different nationalities and was collected through an online survey in both English and Spanish. Based on the intention formation literature (Ajzen, 1991; Krueger et al., 2000; Shapero & Sokol, 1982), a confirmatory factor analysis preceded the hierarchical regression analyses with an examination of mediation effects. Through the hierarchical regression of the proposed research model, the author confirms the set of individual- and environmental-level factors leading to the intention formation of social entrepreneurs. Empathy, perceived social norms, self-efficacy, and perceived collective efficacy were found to be relevant antecedents of social entrepreneurial activities.

The research project formulated in Chapter D: For-profit and Social Entrepreneurship in Comparison builds on thoughts and findings on the intention formation process of social entrepreneurs in the previous chapter. In an experimental setting with 193 graduate students from Copenhagen Business School, 1,544 assessment points allowed to investigate the impact of the (social) entrepreneurial intentions on opportunity exploitation in comparison. After verification through factor analyses, a metric conjoint analysis was applied to identify the preference structure of the respective levels of opportunity exploitation. Subsequently, these results were embedded in a structural equation model. The research project is among the first to investigate (i) antecedents of social entrepreneurial behavior while (ii) showing the behavioral differences between social and traditional entrepreneurs by and (iii) experimental approach. Results show that the importance for decision-making in knowledge relatedness, social value correspondence, future predictability, and social value creation is different for (social) entrepreneurs, while surprisingly, no statement regarding economic value creation is possible.
keywords social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, entrepreneur, dissertation
type dissertation project
status completed
start of project 2008
end of project 2012
additional informations
topics Typologies of Social Ventures
Social Entrepreneurial Intention Formation
For-profit and Social Entrepreneurship in Comparison
methods - factor analyses; two-step cluster analysis, MANOVA
- confirmatory factor analysis; hierarchical regression analyses with mediation
- confirmatory factor analysis; metric conjoint analysis; structural equation modeling; ANOVA
profile area SoM - Business Innovation
contact Florian Forster