Institutional Context and Policy Directions

Having discussed the reasons for policymakers to pursue a supportive environment for tourism-oriented social entrepreneurship, we turn to the question of what this support might entail. Based on the above discussion, the challenge for governments is to create appropriate conditions whereby social enterprises can establish and flourish as part of, and integrated into, the existing economic system, and not as a separate circuit of activities. There are two sets of interrelated dimensions that are relevant in creating this supportive environment: First, the creation of a supportive institutional environment is necessary. The institutional environment comprises the rules, procedures, practices and behaviors that characterize social organization, and provide stability over time (Lowndes & Roberts, 2013). This institutional environment is very significant in shaping the cultural and social regularities through which the opportunities and constraints for action emerge. A supportive institutional context for social entrepreneurship to flourish would include both a positive culture within government and amongst societal actors, and specific support from cultural groups including professional groups, lawyers, bureaucrats and so on (Scott, 2012). The presence of this supportive institutional culture would yield a range of intangible but essential ingredients, including the legitimacy of social entrepreneurship as a credible approach to tackling social problems, and the political and social legitimacy of social entrepreneurs and associated stakeholders so that they may engage in political dialogue and policy consultations.

While this supportive institutional context creates the conditions through which the ecologies of social entrepreneurship can scale-up and extend across communities, the second set of dimensions-policy directives and initiatives-focuses on facilitating the business environment within which social enterprises operate. Robust and resilient social enterprises are the essential building blocks required before social ecologies can be harnessed to address social problems on a broad scale. As a result, like any for-profit business, social enterprises also need a supportive regulatory and policy environment to operate in a financially sound manner. Considerations for the creation of a positive, enabling institutional context and for concrete policy directions are each considered below. However, before we outline these considerations, it is first useful to draw from the above discussion, the particular and distinguishing needs of the tourism social entrepreneurship sector that governments should be aware of:

  • • Social enterprise has at its core a triple bottom line objective: to secure financial viability, to add social value, and to leverage wider social and political ecologies to create social change. Tourism social entrepreneurship shares these same objectives, and specifically requires a supportive tourism policy environment.
  • • Social enterprise should be recognized not only as a means of addressing social issues, but also as a legitimate economic activity. That is, it cannot sit outside the existing system, but needs to be integrated into it in order to allow it to tap into legitimate economic opportunities and build financial sustainability. Similarly, tourism social entrepreneurship requires that it be recognized as a legitimate part of the tourism system.
  • • The opportunities for social entrepreneurship to share experiences and knowledge, to reproduce, and to scale-up are shaped by the social and political regularities at play. Tourism social entrepreneurship requires similar support structures and practices that allow individual entrepreneurs to bond and bridge opportunities within the existing tourism system.
  • • There needs to be a balance between involvement of government players in social entrepreneurship and acknowledging that expertise and know-how exists within social enterprises to tackle social problems. This type of collaborative requires trust and respect between government and non-government organizations. Similarly, in tourism social entrepreneurship, effective collaboration must be based on mutual respect and trust between governments, private sector and non-government sectors.
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