Social impact, profit, and innovation have been called the “three pillars” of social entrepreneurship, but the research literature focuses mainly on the entrepreneur’s attitude to achieving social impact. Very little research has been undertaken to understand the innovation and profit motivations for social entrepreneurship.

Professor Evan Douglas from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation has explored the importance of these three elements as motivators for social entrepreneurship, and identify configurations of motives, self-efficacies, and personal conditions that culminate in social entrepreneurial intention (SEI).

His research reveals multiple combinations of reasons for undertaking social entrepreneurship, as well as asymmetric relationships between SEI and prosocial attitude, innovation attitude, and entrepreneurial self-efficacy, while profit motivation may be either high or low for SEI.

The inclusion of profit and innovation motivation alongside prosocial motivation provides an explanation of why some social ventures are more innovative than others and why some seek more profit than do others.

With this knowledge, public funding bodies and philanthropists might screen applicants for social-venture funding on the basis of their self-efficacy sub-dimensions and their attitudes to each of the three pillars, to ensure that relatively scarce public and philanthropic funds are allocated for maximal social benefit.

In entrepreneurial education, students should be taught to understand the three motives for entrepreneurship, rather than viewing entrepreneurship in binary terms as either commercial or social entrepreneurship. Educators should also adopt a more holistic approach to the teaching of entrepreneurship, emphasizing the heterogeneity of the individual-opportunity nexus and the range of configurations that underlie the intention to act entrepreneurially.

Please click here to read the full paper “Innovation and profit motivations for social entrepreneurship: A fuzzy-set analysis” published in the Journal of Business Research, June 2019, written by Evan Douglas and Catherine Prentice.