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Business History

For a Special Issue on

Examining the Complex Historical Foundations of Social Entrepreneurship

Abstract deadline
21 September 2023

Manuscript deadline
26 April 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Nicholas D. Wong, Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University
[email protected]

Jillian Gordon, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow
[email protected]

Arun Kumar, Kings College London
[email protected]

Jennifer Aston, Institute of Humanities, Northumbria University

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Examining the Complex Historical Foundations of Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is a modern framing for a phenomenon that has a rich historical background that remains largely under-explored in business history scholarship. There are varying definitions of social entrepreneurship, but it can be defined generally as the application of market-based methods and strategies to resolve social problems (Mair and Marti, 2006; Peredo and McLean, 2006, Santos, 2012; Grimes et al., 2013; Doherty et al., 2014). It is manifest in different organizational forms including charities, non-profits, philanthropic foundations (Kumar, 2022), and hybrid commercial enterprises such as co-operatives, community interest companies and predominantly, social enterprises.  Entrepreneurial approaches to public service, and community focused enterprises that conduct work in the interest of the public good, have existed for many centuries (Prochaska, 1988; Freeman, 2011; MacDonald and Howorth, 2018; Wong and McGovern, 2020; Maclean, Shaw, and Harvey, 2022). However, this Special Issue is focused on social entrepreneurs and the formation of enterprises that combine commercial and social activities with the primary objectives of alleviating social problems, creating social value, and thus, catalysing social change (Teasdale, 2010).

Our understanding of social entrepreneurship can be enhanced through the application of business-historical approaches that examine the formation, processes, practices, and outcomes of entrepreneurially oriented social action in a multitude of regional, national, and international contexts. The subject has received increasing attention within management studies (Stirzaker, Galloway, Muhonen, and Christopoulos, 2021; Kosmynin, 2021; Kimmitt, Mandakovic, and Muñoz, 2022). However, there remains a paucity of studies that examine the evolution of the concept, the core processes, and the key practices of social entrepreneurs, globally, from a historical perspective. A limited number of works have explored the origins of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise, but they feature in non-history journals (Grimes, McMullen, Vogus and Miller, 2013; Ayob, Teasdale, and Fagan, 2016; MacDonald and Howorth, 2018; Teasdale, Bellazecca, de Bruin, and Roy, 2022). These articles provide a useful starting point for understanding, from a management and organizational perspective, the antecedents of social entrepreneurship and the evolution of the processes which underpin the impact and effectiveness of such enterprises. This Special Issue aims to extend this body of literature by applying historical methods and approaches to original case studies to disentangle the complex web of societal forces which drive effective social entrepreneurial action in a variety of global contexts (for example, see Kumar 2021, on India).

To explore the history of social entrepreneurship and social innovation we propose that submissions use historical approaches and methodologies to explore, contextualise, and compare the complex role of social entrepreneurs in driving regional socioeconomic change and regional development. We welcome work that extends, tests, and/or creates theory (Maclean, Harvey and Clegg, 2016; Kipping and Üsdiken, 2014) around the temporal and historical dimensions of social entrepreneurship. Existing theory largely focuses on contemporary activities in this sense, but rarely consider how these change over time, and in a variety of contexts. Social entrepreneurs aim to resolve prevalent, regionally defined social issues, and, as a result, space and time are critical to our understanding of these processes.

An important aim of this Special Issue is to develop historical cases that apply historical methods and approaches in order to unravel the  inter-relationships between social entrepreneurs (i.e., the individuals devising strategies and theories of social change), social enterprise (i.e., the predominant organisational form through which social change is enacted) and social entrepreneurship (i.e., the concept that underpins theory development in the field). Historical analyses provide the lens through which researchers can contextualise and analyse the innovative role of social entrepreneurs in driving regional socioeconomic change.

This Special Issue will encourage submissions that examine:

  1. the antecedents and intellectual histories of social entrepreneurship and its typologies
  2. how the concepts have emerged, developed, and enacted in a multitude of regional, national, and international contexts
  3. how emergent strategies of social entrepreneurs are influenced by their socioeconomic contexts and have provided a multitude of innovative approaches to the creation of social value across different time periods and institutional settings.
  4. the role of the state and other social institutions at different levels in facilitating and inhibiting the effectiveness of social entrepreneurs in addressing and resolving social issues.
  5. the role and influence of female entrepreneurs, and others from socially disadvantaged backgrounds (people of colour, Dalit, indigenous people, etc.), in driving social change, creating social value, and addressing regional social issues through the development of enterprising approaches to social innovation.
  6. how historical approaches and methodologies can enhance our understanding of, and offer new perspectives on, the purpose and outcomes of social entrepreneurs in driving social change.

Submission Instructions

This is an open call for paper submissions.

Deadline for submissions is 26th April 2024 via Business History electronic submission form ScholarOnline. Please indicate that the submission is intended for this Special Issue.

We will organise an on-line paper development workshop on 9th November 2023. Submission of extended abstracts for the workshop should be sent to [email protected] before the deadline of 21th September 2023. Abstract should be around 2000-3000 words including summary of core aims/objectives, key literature and theoretical grounding, data and methods, and contribution.

All submissions to this Special Issue should be original research. None of the papers should have been published previously. All papers will be subject to normal double-blind peer review process.

Any inquiries should be addressed to the editorial team at [email protected]. The executive editor for this Special Issue is Christina Lubinski.

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