Social entrepreneurship: Study highlights key influences on business creation
According to a study published in GV-Executive, the journal of Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), produced by two researchers at the University of Fortaleza, Roberta Feitosa de Lucena Cavalcante and José Milton de Sousa-Filho, social entrepreneurs seek to improve society through the creation of innovative business models that aim to solve or minimize social and environmental problems. Unlike traditional entrepreneurs, their main objective is not profit, but having positive impacts on the community.
In this context, a study of 30 Brazilian social entrepreneurs found that their main influences in setting up social businesses were extracurricular activities, volunteering and mentoring, rather than formal education. Although many of them have degrees in the human sciences, college was not decisive to their social entrepreneurship path.
The study contributes to a deeper understanding of social entrepreneurship and the establishment of new parameters for corporate actions and public policies designed to increase the quantity and quality of future social entrepreneurs.
The methodology used was qualitative, based on the life stories of social entrepreneurs. Data was collected through in-depth interviews and analyzed using content analysis techniques. Most of the respondents were young and single, with university degrees in several areas, and they held positions such as founder, CEO and director. The interviews were analyzed to identify categories through interpretation procedures.
According to the interviewed social entrepreneurs, their family background, such as parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts was cited as a source of inspiration, but it was not a predominant influencing factor. Instead, the respondents highlighted the importance of participating in mentoring, incubation and acceleration programs to help set up their social businesses. Before starting their ventures, most volunteered for charities, which helped them get a better understanding of the problems and difficulties of specific groups.
They also said that most Brazilians have little idea of what a social enterprise is and confuse the concept with philanthropy or social responsibility, but this perception is gradually changing. Asked what motivated them to start their social business, they mainly talked about the opportunity to solve social problems and tackle present challenges. In addition, the desire to change people’s lives was essential.
On the issue of business opportunities, the interviewees said that taking part in public contests to promote social projects is an important way to obtain training and financial resources, as well as to gain credibility.
“To promote social entrepreneurship, we need to have encouragement in formal education and involvement in extracurricular activities, as well as initiatives to support entrepreneurs, such as public contests to promote social projects,” the researchers write.
To read the full paper, click here.