Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

The Dark Side of Social Entrepreneurship

Academic journal article International Journal of Entrepreneurship

The Dark Side of Social Entrepreneurship

Article excerpt


The concept of social entrepreneurship is not a tidy one (Peredo & McLean, 2006; Mair & Marti, 2006; Seelos & Mair; 2005: Dees; 1998). There appears to be a blurring of the boundaries as to what constitutes a social enterprise and more so, social entrepreneurship as a concept. This is further mudded by the fact that a number of organisations that have questions surrounding their legitimacy but which carry out social functions, for example, criminal gangs, are sometimes categorised as social enterprises and fall under the rubric of social entrepreneurship. This situation appears to be most prevalent in societies that are low growth, with high levels of poverty, high unemployment, and large social dislocations. In these contexts, social enterprises tend to have a significant impact but it is not always clear whether or not the intent is really social, or is there another darker motive behind the benevolence being distributed under the guise of social entrepreneurship. It is these issues that have motivated the research presented in this paper.

The paper hopes to understand whether or not we can categorise all enterprises under the heading, social entrepreneurship once they are involved in creating social value in a community. Shedding light on this issue has serious implications for how we conceptualise the term social entrepreneurship and build a general understanding of the concept. To achieve the aims of this work, the paper is organised as follows: the next section will present a discussion on the definition of social entrepreneurship, and also social enterprises. This will be followed by a review of the context in which the study is focused. This review is important as it provides a better lens through which one can understand the problem that is being raised in the paper. Here, we will look at the social dislocation in Jamaica, in what are called garrison communities where a lot of the social enterprise activities take place but under questionable circumstances Following this, a discussion will be presented to show how the characteristics of the activities in these communities reflect the nature and characteristics of social enterprises. This will help us to draw conclusions about whether or not all social enterprises can be labelled under the theme social entrepreneurship. The paper will end with a discussion and some concluding remarks.


While the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship is not new, it appears that the language, i.e. the concept is just emerging. Entrepreneurship as a concept aimed at improving the economic development of nations, has gained significant amount of attention in the literature (Venkataraman, 1997; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000; Gartner, 1988 etc). However, entrepreneurship as a process aimed at reaching sections of society where the traditional markets have failed to reach or put another way, entrepreneurship which aims at transforming societies through social progress, has recently started to receive attention in the literature (Dees & Elias, 1998; Mair & Marti, 2006; Alvord et al, 2004; Seelos & Mair, 2006 etc). The newness of this phenomenon like in all other fields of study in their developmental stage, suffers from inconsistency in definition, and disjointed research findings, poor theoretical developments and its boundaries as they relate to other disciplines are still under-developed. At this stage in the development of the field, social entrepreneurship means different things to different people (Dees, 1998).

One group of researchers sees social entrepreneurship as merely reflecting non-profit initiatives that are geared to create value to those that the traditional markets will not reach (e.g. Bosche, 1998; Peredo & McLean, 2006). Others see it as using business principles to solve social problems. Indeed, Pomerantz (2003) noted that social entrepreneurship involves taking businesslike, innovative approach to the mission of delivering community services. …

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