Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Social Ventures from a Resource-Based Perspective: An Exploratory Study Assessing Global Ashoka Fellows

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Social Ventures from a Resource-Based Perspective: An Exploratory Study Assessing Global Ashoka Fellows

Article excerpt

This study aims to discover relationships using a resource-based view of entrepreneurship and the social value creation characteristics of 70 social entrepreneurs. This study builds on existing research that commercial and social entrepreneurs share similar operational processes by providing empirical support for these relationships from a sample of acknowledged successful social entrepreneurs and by applying a resource-based lens to the context of social entrepreneurship. Novel qualitative and quantitative content analysis techniques were applied to the online profiles of Ashoka Fellows. Statistically significant relationships were found among measures of partnerships, financial capital, innovativeness, organizational structure, and knowledge transferability. These findings suggest that social entrepreneurs, when viewed through a resource-based lens, demonstrate similar internal operational processes in utilizing resource bundles as commercial entrepreneurs.


Notwithstanding the debate around social entrepreneurship as an academic field, research in the area has increased as evidenced by articles in top-tier journals on social venture franchising (Tracey & Jarvis, 2007), social entrepreneurship partnerships (Meyskens, Carsrud, & Cardozo, Forthcoming; Seelos & Mair, 2007), community-based enterprise (Peredo & Chrisman, 2006), social entrepreneurs' ethical concerns (Zahra, Gedajlovic, Neubaum, & Shulman, 2009), and commercial versus social entrepreneurship (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006; Vega & Kidwell, 2007). However, the extant social entrepreneurship academic research has primarily utilized case studies or anecdotal evidence as a means to explore the phenomena of social entrepreneurship (Mair & Martf, 2006; Short, Moss, & Lumpkin, 2009) and few studies frame their research in the context of established theories (Short et al.). This study adds to the existing literature by applying the resource-based view (RBV) to empirically analyze social entrepreneurship operational processes.

Entrepreneurship is a process that brings together a unique set of resources to pursue an opportunity (Morris, Kurato, & Schindehutte, 2001) and it has become accepted by many scholars that both social and commercial entrepreneurship fall under this definitive umbrella. However, social entrepreneurship focuses on addressing unmet societal needs and seeks to primarily generate social value (Brooks, 2008; Mair & Martf, 2006; Nicholls, 2006), while commercial entrepreneurship seeks to primarily create economic value (Austin et al., 2006). Thus, the ways in which social and commercial ventures measure their value creation differ in terms of purely focusing on economic value creation (wealth creation), social value creation, or a combination of both. Other research, such as the seminal work of Dees, has also built on some of the important characteristics of social entrepreneurship such as innovativeness, risk-taking resourcefulness, and accountability.

Numerous methods are used to quantify the various types of value created by social ventures such as triple bottom line and social return on investment (SROI). Triple bottom line refers to a venture's positive economic gains, positive human/social impact, and positive environmental impact. SROI measures the blended economic and social value created by social ventures (Emerson & Bonini, 2003) using a modified version of the classic ROI model. This study attempts to measure the presence of additional entrepreneurial processes within social ventures and their distinct resource types by using the RBV, rather than by quantifying the actual output or value creation resulting from these processes.

Applying RBV serves as a lens of analysis to view each social venture's resource management and mobilization strategies (Wernerfelt, 1984). It is often used in the traditional entrepreneurship literature to better understand venture processes and strategic orientations (e. …

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