Rethinking social entrepreneurship: The concept of social entrepreneurship under the perspective of socio-scientific innovation research

Howaldt, Jürgen; Domanski, Dmitri; Schwarz, Michael 2015: Rethinking social entrepreneurship. The concept of social entrepreneurship under the perspective of socio-scientific innovation research. In: Journal of Creativity and Business Innovation, 1/2015, pp. 88-98.


The state of research on social entrepreneurship is unsatisfactory. Case studies and quite euphoric self- descriptions, which use actors’ motivation and intention as the origin of the definition of social entrepreneurship, often take the centre stage. Furthermore, the relationship between social entrepreneurship and social innovation remains unclear. The purpose of our paper is a systematic connection of these two aspects. Our main thesis is: from the perspective of socio-scientific innovation research, development, implementation and institutionalization of the concept of social entrepreneurship can be described as a social innovation. Borrowing from Schumpeter, social entrepreneurs create a new type of behaviour, which fulfils an important societal function like the type of business entrepreneur in the economy. The paper starts with an overview of the current situation and the perspectives of socio-scien-tific innovation research. Against the backdrop of clear paradoxes and confusion in prevailing innovation policies, the contours of a new innovation paradigm are becoming visible and causing social innovation to grow in importance. The paper then addresses some difficulties when dealing with social entrepreneurship as scientific concept and looks critically at the state of the debate. Subsequently, it analyses social entrepreneurship against the background of findings of innovation research and finally argues that the type of social entrepreneur itself constitutes a social innovation, i.e. an alternative social practice, which spreads widely through the society. Social entrepreneurs are agents of social innovation by acting entrepreneurially in a new frame of reference and thereby inventing, developing and achieving a new social practice in the society.

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