Why do people become social entrepreneurs and what is their role in our globalised world?

The value of social entrepreneurship is widely recognised, as every day it is estimated to help over 1 billion lives, and further benefits are expected through its expansion. Yet, how do we support and encourage individuals to embark on social entrepreneurship journey?

Research conducted by Ana Dobre now alumni of BSc Management at the University of Bristol Business School, and supervised by Dr Rushana Khusainova, uncovers motivations behind why people become social entrepreneurs and their role in our globalised world.

Social entrepreneurship was developed as a response to the fast increase in global issues, acting as a front line in combating vast challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions.

Considered one of the largest movements of our time social entrepreneurship developed rapidly with 11bn social enterprises around the world. The reason for its fast expansion goes beyond urgency in tackling complex world issues as only in the UK there are 100,000 social enterprises contributing to the economy with £60bn.

Although the need for these enterprises is vastly recognised, there is considerable little research that is focused on the way social enterprises can be developed and improved. This becomes particularly relevant when it comes to the actual individuals and their motivations perusing social entrepreneurship.

In the light of this, my research focused on the way an individual’s motivation to pursue social entrepreneurship is influenced by their national context including the cultural values, opportunities and support available. To explore this connection, I have conducted several in-depth interviews with social entrepreneurs from two countries with noticeably different cultures representing Eastern and Western Europe: Romania and the United Kingdom.

Research findings suggest that social entrepreneurs develop a feeling of connection to their cause and develop strong relationship with their peers, other social entrepreneurs, and beneficiaries, which as a result can influence community cohesion. The findings also highlight the universal crucial importance of having a role model or mentor when it comes to stepping into the world of social entrepreneurship.

The strongest motivation in pursuing social entrepreneurship was the desire to create a positive change in the community as well as in their own lives. Such motivation is powered by both self-interest and selflessness which is a unique set of drivers.

Finally, considering the global mentality of social entrepreneurs and their involvement in the transmission of information, social entrepreneurs can be seen as true agents of globalization and missionaries of innovation. Specifically, social entrepreneurs have a positive contribution to globalization through the spread of information and ensuring up-to-date progressive solutions for global issues. This is a truly contrasting tactic to traditional private sector where exposing strategies would be considered a market disadvantage. For social enterprises the overall value that can be created for the social cause shadows the competitive spirit.

However, there seems to be lack of support, guidance and help for social entrepreneurship across the countries. Participants in my research expressed dissatisfaction with the way the cause is treated by the government, and 50%, preponderantly Western social entrepreneurs, showed the same attitude towards the ways NGOs are able to treat the cause.

Overall, social entrepreneurship proved to be a complex field of study that brings together business systems and social value in a way that is more efficient, sustainable and time-resistant than seen before. The benefits of social entrepreneurship highlight its importance for a world dominated by social issues and for the business literature that witnesses a new area of expansion.

My experience within the Management program at the University of Bristol helped me navigate the complex challenges of the contemporary and dynamic business landscape, ultimately leading me to the field of social entrepreneurship. Consequently, I consider universities as the main facilitators in inspiring students and entrepreneurs to engage in or even create positive fields of action and study.

Find out more about our undergraduate Business and Management courses at the University of Bristol Business School.

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