Definitions and Terminologies
Social Enterprise is a relatively youthful phenomenon. The terms social entrepreneur and social entrepreneurship were first used in the literature on social change in the 1960s and 1970s but came into widespread use in the following two decades partly in response to increasing signs of social inequity. There are many definitions of these terms, and the field is complex and rapidly moving. To study it we need to know what and who we are studying. This knowledge can then be carefully applied to the tourism and hospitality field. It is often stated that there is a lack of definitional clarity for social entrepreneurship (SE) which has become . .so
inclusive that it now has an immense tent into which all manner of socially beneficial activities fit.” (Martin & Osberg, 2007, p. 1). It is clear that more definitional clarity is needed in a generic sense that can then be customized to the tourism sector.
A social entrepreneur can be simply defined as one who uses business principles to solve social problems. Other definitions suggest more of a continuum, extending from those with a purely social mission to hybrid models that include the profit motive to different degrees (Lee & Jay, 2015; Volkmann et al., 2012). Bornstein (2007, p. 1) states that social entrepreneurs “combine the savvy, opportunism, optimism and resourcefulness of business entrepreneurs, with the devotion and pursuit of ‘social profit,’ rather than business profit.”
But these definitions barely touch on the more profound social transformation that is the intended outcome of social entrepreneurship. As far back as 1977, Chamberlain used the term to include a broader philosophical approach (Chamberlain, 1977, p. 2).
For me social entrepreneurship was grounded in social rationality—a completely different philosophical perspective that prioritizes human relationships above task-efficiency.
Similarly, Yunus (2010, p. xv) states that “The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature” explaining that humans are not ‘money-making robots’ but are multi-dimensional beings often driven by selfless motivations. The growth in social entrepreneurship is proving this to be the case. Dees (1998, p. 2) also questions the free market model:
Any definition of social entrepreneurship should reflect the need for a substitute for the market discipline that works for business entrepreneurs. We cannot assume that market discipline will automatically weed out social ventures that are not effectively and efficiently utilizing resources.
This view is particularly important for the tourism industry which is strongly based on human relationships, human nature, the creation of social capital, and the need to use non-market mechanisms to manage the environmental resources upon which it is based.
A few key global organizations and foundations supporting social entrepreneurship have added their definitions. The Ashoka Foundation, the first organization to support social entrepreneurship at the global level was founded by Bill Drayton in
1980. His definition also focuses on the systemic change that social entrepreneurship can bring to industries and in society:
Social Entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish, or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry. www.ashoka.org
The Skoll Foundation, another well-recognized international organization for social entrepreneurship founded by Jeff Skoll and others in 1999. It is based in Palo Alto, California with its related Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship located in the SAID Business School, University of Oxford, UK includes the transformative impact in its definition:
Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents: creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better. They see a problem they want to solve and they go after it in a way that is potentially disruptive. It is not just seeing a problem and addressing it intermittently and on a piecemeal basis. It is saying “I’m going to crack open this system and solve it.” https://skollworldforum.org/about/what-is-social- entrepreneurship/
Both of these definitions point to the need to disrupt the status quo; to change current systems. Social entrepreneurs have been categorized as ‘unreasonable people’ because they want to change the system, are insanely ambitious, propelled by emotion, think they know the future, seek profit in unprofitable pursuits and try to measure the immeasurable (Elkington & Hartigan, 2008). All of this, however, gives them power. But some stereotypes of social entrepreneurs need to questioned. Brookes (2009) de-bunks the following myths: they are anti-business, run non-profits, are born not made, are misfits, usually fail, love risk and finally that greed is what differentiates them from commercial entrepreneurs.
The Skoll website (www.skollfoundation.org) also suggests that social entrepreneurs . .pave avenues of opportunity for those who would, otherwise, be locked into lives without hope” again suggesting their significant humanitarian impact. Other researchers have noted that social entrepreneurship projects often contribute to disadvantaged and marginalized groups. Martin and Osberg (2007) identify a three stage process whereby social entrepreneurs can affect social change for such disadvantaged populations. They recommend first identifying a stable but unjust equilibrium creating the exclusion, marginalization, or suffering. Then developing a social value proposition to challenge the stable state’s hegemony, and finally forging a new equilibrium to alleviate the suffering of the targeted group and creates a better future for them. The sustainability of these interventions and initiatives is paramount, and this often demands that the private sector, the public sector and the non-profit sectors all must all contribute to sustainable social entrepreneurship (Keohane, 2013).
A definition that brings together many factors from various disciplinary sources and prominent authors is recommended by Dees (1998). He combines an emphasis on discipline and accountability, value creation (Say, 2001), innovation and change agents (Schumpeter, 1975), pursuit of opportunity from (Drucker, 1995), and resourcefulness (Wei-Skillern, Austin, Leonard, & Stevenson, 2007). Bringing all these together he suggests social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:
- • adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value);
- • recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission;
- • engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning;
- • acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
- • exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created (Dees, 1998).
It has been suggested that there are five pivotal dimensions around which social entrepreneurship is structured: social mission, social innovation, social change, entrepreneurial spirit, and personality (Praszkier & Nowak, 2012, p. 15). Similarly, but in a more general sense, Volkmann, Tokarski and Ernst (2012) suggest four factors in defining social entrepreneurs: the scope of their activity, their characteristics, their primary mission and outcome, and the processes and resources used. As we reflect on these factors in the tourism domain, each has something to offer a definition of Tourism Social Entrepreneurship (TSE).
Since the potential for social entrepreneurship to transform society is strong, much literature may have donned rose-tinted glasses. It is important to caution against such non-critical, starry-eyed perspectives of social entrepreneurship as it too has downsides. As Zahrer, Gedajlovic, Neubaum, and Shulman (2009) so poignantly say “While social entrepreneurs are driven by an ethical obligation and desire to improve their communities and societies, egoism can drive them to follow unethical practices” (Zahrer et al., 2009, p. 528). The various potential, ethical pitfalls that they can fall into are laid out by Zahrer et al. (2009). Tourism social entrepreneurs can also fall into these pitfalls and would be advised to be aware of them. The next section will propose a definition for tourism social entrepreneurship.