Framing a Theory of Social Entrepreneurship: Building on Two Schools of Practice and Thought

By J. Gregory Dees and Beth Battle Anderson

Social entrepreneurship has been gaining momentum as an academic subject. In the past decade, numerous schools, particularly, but not exclusively, business schools, have launched new courses, programs, centers, or research initiatives embracing variations on this theme.  Even with this flurry of activity, as a field of intellectual inquiry, social entrepreneurship is still in its infancy. We do not yet have the deep, rich explanatory or prescriptive theories that characterize a more mature academic field. The existing literature focuses primarily on practical considerations, with many descriptive case studies, stories of lessons learned, and “how to” guides. However, the field is ripe for theory development. Our goal in this paper is to help set the agenda for that theory-building process by suggesting a way of framing this new field of inquiry that is guided by both practical and intellectual considerations.

In Research on Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding and Contributing to an Emerging Field, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), 2006.