Searching for Social Entrepreneurs

Light, P.C.
paper prepared for the annual meetings of the Association for Nonprofit and Voluntary Associations, November 17-19,

The question for this paper is not whether social entrepreneurs exist, however, but whether the field of social entrepreneurship is too exclusive for its own good. The field has mostly defined social entrepreneurs as individuals who launch entirely new social-purpose nonprofit ventures. In doing so, the field may have excluded large numbers of individuals and entities that are equally deserving of the support, networking, and training now reserved for individuals who meet both the current definitional tests of a social entrepreneur and the ever-growing list of exemplars.
Not only does this definition deny the possibility that the intensity and quantity of social entrepreneurship might vary over time and across individuals and entities, it also substantially reduces the population of entrepreneurs who might form the basis for the kind of evidence-based, large-sample, control-group research needed to determine what truly matters to successful social entrepreneurship.

Wagner Faculty