Social Entrepreneurship Effects on the Emergence of Cooperation in Networks

Article excerpt

Even in simple contexts, the dynamical interaction between agents creates complex features. The presence of agents of change affects dramatically the underlying social structure. Some agents seem to be important in shaping the evolution of interactions: traditionally, these agents have been referred to as leaders; nevertheless, recently scholarly interest has been attracted by social entrepreneurs. Do social leaders and social entrepreneurs act differently? Can a social entrepreneurship culture, one that aims for a large number of social entrepreneurs, be welcomed? This paper presents a model of interaction among agents in a community, and sheds light on the catalytic role that some individuals have on the social structure. The results provide some implications about the role of social entrepreneurs and the differences between social entrepreneurship and leadership.

Introduction

The language of social entrepreneurship may be new, but the phenomenon is not. The interest in it has been rising in recent years, and other forms of social entrepreneurship, beyond that occurring within the nonprofit sector, have also grown. The concept of social entrepreneurship is gaining popularity, but, at the same time, the term has undertaken several meanings, and many authors agree on the fact that this can be confusing (Dees, 2001; Austin et al, 2006; Mair 8c Martí, 2006).

For this reason, social entrepreneurship is still an emerging area for academic inquiry. Theoretical supports have not been sufficiently explored, and contributions to theory and practice are necessary. In addition, boundaries of social entrepreneurship to other fields of study remain fuzzy. Several contributions have been proposed in order to clarify the topic. Among others, Austin (2006) presents studies of collaborations in social entrepreneurship, such as alliances and networks, hoping for interdisciplinary research. Empirical approaches examine the sociological aspects behind the exploitation of social entrepreneurial opportunities, deriving from the existing entrepreneurship theory of opportunity. Robinson (2006) considers the relationship among three factors: the decision to enter a particular market, the social networks in which entrepreneurs are embedded, and the existing types of institutions which can help the development ofthe initiative. Considering the integration of sustainability and the environment, Clifford et al (2006) suggest that successes related to the mission-driven values and ideals and to creating networks of mutual benefiting stakeholders.

Following Austin et al (2006), the social entrepreneur must focus on building a network of contacts, developing the skills to manage the different relationships in this network effectively. Furthermore, networking across organizational boundaries seems to be essential, because the goals of creating social value do not imply that value can be captured within boundaries. An interesting case which emphasizes this aspect is studied in Rhodes and Donnelly-Cox (2008).

We do not intend to put much emphasis on social entrepreneurs as individuals, focusing on personality traits that may contribute to entrepreneurial success. Rather, we are interested in what social entrepreneurs do; in fact, it has been already observed that the right question to ask is not "who the entrepreneur is" (Gartner, 1988). Furthermore, as Light (2006: 50) underlines, the available evidence suggests that success depends less upon personality than on teachable skills. According to Light's definition, social entrepreneurships "can also come from small groups or groups of individuals, organizations, networks, or even communities that band together to create pattern -breaking change". Moving away from who becomes an entrepreneur to what they seek, the number of social entrepreneurs expands. The level and the intensity of social entrepreneurship can vary greatly: because of continuous changes in circumstances, this activity might pause, stop and restart. …