Ecosystems in support of social entrepreneurship: insights from Belgium

Tipo de documento: Artículo académico

Año: 2020

País: Bélgica

Social entrepreneurs (SEs) propose practical solutions to deal with a wide range of complex societal challenges (Zahra et al., 2009). Despite the fact that social enterprises generate a lot of enthusiasm and innovative ideas for such pressing problems, the speed and scale at which successful social innovations spread are frustratingly slow and complex in comparison to “traditional” innovative start-ups (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006). To realize their mission, SEs rely on the support of others to access different type of resources (Letaifa, 2016). In this sense, to better understand and support social entrepreneurs and their challenges, it is important to look at the environment that they are a part of (Roundy, 2017).

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (EE) bring together different actors and their resources, to potentially support SEs to address all their specific challenges (Roundy, 2017). In the EE, the interconnectedness of its actors and their complementarity, are relevant when talking about the potential support these networks can bring to SEs (Spigel & Harrison, 2018). Despite the growing academic interest in the EE field (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006; Short, Moss, & Lumpkin, 2009), we find little evidence on how concretely SEs can be benefited from the support of others across the EE. This is corroborated by Letaifa (2016, p. 456) when arguing that: “Few articles tackle the process by which the social ecosystems forms, scales and leads to social value creation, whereas the main goal of social entrepreneurs is to integrate resources in order to solve social problems for local or global communities”.

Using qualitative data from 23 semi-structured interviews and several observations in Flanders (Belgium), this paper is aimed at studying different ecosystems in which SEs operates. Our main ambition is to identify the most relevant support actors and their mechanisms of support in the EE. We guide our study using the following research question: What are the best practices through which ecosystems in support of social entrepreneurs help improve their value creation to society?

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