Successful Social Entrepreneurship: The Case of the Eaglehawk Recycle Shop

By Harman, Jessie | Journal of Services Research, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Successful Social Entrepreneurship: The Case of the Eaglehawk Recycle Shop


Harman, Jessie, Journal of Services Research


This paper provides a detailed analysis of a case of social entrepreneurship widely recognised in Australia as successful. It seeks to answer the question: What are the factors associated with successful social entrepreneurship? Using Austin, et. al's (2006) Framework for Social Entrepreneurship, the author suggests a number of factors in the key areas of: opportunity, people, financial resources, economic and institutional factors, organisational factors and social value. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for practitioners, policy makers and researchers of social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship is not a new phenomenon in Australia. It has always been possible to identify examples of nonprofit organisations which have used entrepreneurial strategies to achieve particular social purposes. However, whilst it may not be new there is some, albeit limited, evidence that the incidence of social entrepreneurship in Australia is increasing (Barraket, 2006). Driven by a changing landscape - one that is increasingly characterised by market-driven approaches (Field, 2001; Ryan, 1999) and/or pressing social need - it would seem that more nonprofit organisations are adopting entrepreneurial approaches and strategies.

There is also some evidence that policy makers in Australia are becoming increasingly interested in social entrepreneurship. In the past two years, the Victorian Government, for example, has provided funds to a small number of nonprofit organisations and communities to establish social enterprises (Lane, 2006). It is likely that the policy environment, in several Australian states at least, will continue to advance the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship.

As an area of academic interest, social entrepreneurship is still emerging (Mosher-Williams, 2006) and there is much that remains to be understood about the phenomena. In particular, the factors or considerations which are critical to successful social entrepreneurship are not well known. The amount of research into social entrepreneurship in Australia is particularly limited.

This paper aims to develop our understanding of social entrepreneurship, specifically the factors which underpin its success, using a case of social entrepreneurship widely recognised as successful in Australia. It seeks to answer the key question: what are the factors associated with the success of this particular case of social entrepreneurship? In addressing this issue, the author also seeks to respond to a common criticism that much social entrepreneurship research lacks a systematic and theoretical approach. To this end the author uses Austin, et.al's (2006) analytical Framework for Social Entrepreneurship to guide the research process.

The paper begins with a brief overview of social entrepreneurship. The author discusses several perspectives on social entrepreneurship, provides a working definition of the concept, and describes the research framework which guides the analysis. She goes on to describe the research method, identifying the case of social entrepreneurship and justifying its selection. In the body of the paper the author explores common themes in the research to identify and describe those factors which appear to be related to successful social entrepreneurship. She concludes the paper by providing some insights about value of the research framework used in the research and some implications for social entrepreneurship policy, research and practice.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

To research the factors associated with successful social entrepreneurship it is firstly necessary to define social entrepreneurship. There is no one, commonly agreed definition of social entrepreneurship and the term is used variously in different contexts and by different individuals.

One way of making sense of the various definitions of social entrepreneurship is to group them according to their scope. Broad definitions typically describe social entrepreneurship as innovative activity with a social purpose which may occur in either the for-profit, government or the nonprofit sectors (Dees, 1998).

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Successful Social Entrepreneurship: The Case of the Eaglehawk Recycle Shop
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