A Research Agenda for TSE

Research agendas may be articulated for a variety of reasons. For example, research agendas may aim to build frameworks of scientific knowledge, to build normative guidance about what should be done, or to fulfill other objectives dictated by our higher education institutions and the policy contexts in which they operate, such as publications, citations and the pursuit of metrics. We offer this third motivation somewhat cynically, but realize that there are some researchers who will see social entrepreneurship as a new topic and therefore an easy target for quick publication. Motivated by the need to develop a more sustained and serious research agenda, the editors and authors of this volume are keen to encourage a broader and more holistic approach than that motivated by such opportunism. Therefore, as a nascent area of research, and one that we believe needs to be addressed from a variety of perspectives and methodologies, we see the need for valuable research in a number of overlapping areas:

  • • Conceptual and theoretical research on TSE;
  • • Research that examines operational aspects of TSE;
  • • Research that examines the relational characteristics between entrepreneurs, communities, governments and businesses over time and across multiple scales with a view to understanding, for example, capacity building, scaling and social innovation systems;
  • • Research that examines the individual characteristics, qualities, behaviors and motivations of social entrepreneurs;
  • • Research that examines the interplay and effects of various contexts and the effects of these contexts on the successes and failures of TSE; and
  • • Research that tracks the performance of TSE, that develops new metrics for the delivery of blended value and that assists in assessing the overall value of TSE as an alternative approach to mainstream tourism business models.

These areas of potential research are outlined below. But before we detail these areas, it is also useful to note some considerations that can assist researchers in positioning their research in order to maximize critical insights for practice. First, we recommend that researchers adopt a position of critical agnosticism to the rhetorical claims made about TSE in the literature. That is, researchers need to start from a position of being open and critical to the strengths and weaknesses of TSE, and not to start from the value-full position that TSE is inherently good and the aim of the research is to reinforce this pre-existing view. Only then can we build understandings of TSE and pay attention to the concrete and situated valuing of TSE as a set of practices (Ren, Petersen, & Dredge, 2015).

Second, it is important to not only pay attention to TSE, to examine its characteristics and impacts, but also to explore the silenced voices, alternative perspectives and consequences beyond a tourism-centered view of the world. In other words, tourism is interconnected with other social and economic practices, and assessing TSE within its wider complex setting is important. Third, and associated with the above, it is important that TSE research pay attention to alternative perspectives and the variegated practices of actors, and to reflect on the multiple ways that valuing the benefits and impacts of TSE takes place. Fourth, our position is that TSE is a situated and contextual set of practices, and that it is important to avoid overgeneralizations and grand claims that transcend the particular settings that give rise to the TSE’s value and its successes and failures. Fifth, and finally, TSE research should stay focused on impact. Research for the sake of publication alone is wasteful. Both theoretical and pragmatic research can contribute important insights and knowledge to assist in creating a better world, and research should keep in focus what matters and how a better world can be create through knowledge and understanding.

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