Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Tactics and Evolution of Social Entrepreneurial Storytelling

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Tactics and Evolution of Social Entrepreneurial Storytelling

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

During the past two decades, social entrepreneurship has emerged as a thriving subcategory of entrepreneurial activity (Choi & Majumdar, 2014). Social entrepreneurship involves creating ventures that utilize business methods to address problems harmful to society (e.g. Dees, 1998; Miller, Grimes, McMullen, & Vogus, 2012). It differs from conventional entrepreneurship in several ways including the driving motivations of founders, the centrality of the social mission, the types of business (and social value) opportunities pursued, the diversity of organizational structures and business models, and the expectations of stakeholders (Austin et al., 2006; Comer and Ho, 2010; Lumpkin, Moss, Gras, Kato, & Amezcua, 2013).

Despite their differences, social and conventional entrepreneurship share a commonality: both types of entrepreneurs must construct persuasive communication to convince stakeholders, such as investors, customers, and the media, to provide them with the resources they need to manage and scale their ventures. However, in constructing stakeholder communication, the two forms of entrepreneurship diverge in an important way. Unlike conventional entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs are forced to communicate a complex message, which incorporates and balances elements of both business and socialgood missions (e.g. Galpin & Bell, 2010). This difference is attributable to the hybrid nature of social ventures and to the fact that, by definition, they are enterprises that must juggle two different, and at times fiercely competing, organizational logics: a social welfare logic, which is focused on the creation of social value, and an economic logic, which is concentrated on financial value (Doherty, Haugh, & Lyon, in press; Garrow & Hasenfeld, 2012; Nichols, 2010). Although the two logics can co-align, they often generate tension - both operationally and in the expectations and priorities of stakeholders (Pache & Santos, 2010).

The existence of multiple logics within the same ventures has implications for how social entrepreneurs craft stakeholder communication. For instance, Roundy (2014) examined how social entrepreneurs crafted narratives, which are discursive tools used to shape one's own understanding (i.e. sensemaking) or to influence others' understanding (i.e. sensegiving) of actions, events, or experiences (Brown, 1998; Sonenshein, 2010). Roundy found that social entrepreneurs constructed and communicated three different types of narratives: business, social-good, and personal (2014). Social entrepreneurs' ability to tailor narratives to fit the preferences of audiences, including investors, the media, and beneficiaries, played a key role in their ability to acquire financial and nonfmancial resources.

While research is beginning to examine how social entrepreneurs communicate with their diverse groups of stakeholders to gain access to the resources they need, much remains to be learned. To address this topic, a multicase study of social entrepreneurs was conducted. This study finds that funded ventures (i.e. those successful in acquiring financial investment) communicated differently with stakeholders than unfunded ventures. Specifically, the funded entrepreneurs engaged in narrative linking, a communication tactic that involves connecting elements of more than one narrative-type. In addition, these entrepreneurs were also more likely to construct communication with a specific characteristic, narrative multiplexity. Multiplex narratives contain multiple, potential ties to more than one stakeholder group. Finally, the communication of funded entrepreneurs followed a common narrative evolution. These findings suggest that there are important ways in which social entrepreneurs can differ in their communication strategies, which in turn can impact their ability to acquire resources.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Narratives and Entrepreneurship

A growing body of research explores the role of communication - and specifically, narrative communication - in the entrepreneurial process. …

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