Unpacking the Biographical Antecedents of the Emergence of Social Enterprises: A Narrative Perspective

Despite the burgeoning research on social enterprise (SE), there is a dearth of research that investigates the biographical factors that influence the emergence of SEs in the form of hybrid organizations on a large scale. Drawing on the emerging narrative perspective of SE, we examine the biographical narratives of 317 self-identified social entrepreneurs who were selected as fellows by two of the world’s largest SE support organizations: Ashoka and the Schwab Foundation. We employ Gioia’s methodology and principal component analysis to derive and subsequently classify the biographical antecedents of SE emergence. This study makes a novel contribution to the SE-as-hybrid organization literature by revealing eight biographical antecedents of SE emergence, four of which can be categorized into social skills, and four others can be categorized into economic skills, which constitute SE’s social position. We also develop a typology of SE based on different combinations of individuals’ social skills and social position. Finally, we discuss the implications of this study for the SE-as-hybrid-organization literature, highlight its limitations and present possible avenues for future research.

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