Accessing social entrepreneurship: Perspectives of people with disabilities and key stakeholders

Social entrepreneurship has been gaining increasing attention as a possible employment strategy for people with disabilities. However, little is known about the experiences of social entrepreneurs with disabilities in relation to their resources needs, opportunities for participation, and barriers they encounter. Further, little is understood about how social entrepreneurship differs from self-employment or forms of commercial entrepreneurship. The findings included herein are representative of the first empirical research integrating the fields of disability studies and entrepreneurship studies to explore social entrepreneurship among people with disabilities through interviews with key stakeholders working in the field (n = 19) and focus groups with social entrepreneurs with disabilities themselves (n = 27). Three themes emerged from this qualitative research that hold particular importance to policymakers and professionals working in the field of vocational rehabilitation: 1) education, training and information; 2) finance, funding and asset development; 3) networking and supports. The findings demonstrate that social entrepreneurship can be an effective model of employment but is currently underutilized. With additional investment, it can offer a meaningful way for people with disabilities to participate in the labor market and complement existing strategies in competitive and customized employment to promote choice and self-determination.

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