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Oliver Herbst

Email Address: 
Dr. Briga Hynes
Working Title of Thesis: 
Social Entrepreneurship in Ireland

Introduction: Adding “social” to entrepreneurship sheds light on the shifts from mainly profit maximisation towards social value creation and from mainly self-interests to more selflessness in its approach. Social entrepreneurship benefits society by smoothen economic shortcomings through raising social awareness and providing solutions (Santos 2012). In its problem solving nature entreneurship “is a skill rather than a virtue” (Dees 2012, p.322) and the acronym ‘social’ indicates that it’s noble intention is to do good. Social enterprises arise from such social entrepreneurial activities and intentions, and are a brilliant example of how actions that involve commercial activities, innovation and change can be brought together to solve problems in relations to environment, animal and social welfare. In Ireland, the number of social enterprises has increased substantially over the past few years (SEI 2012) even in the face of tough economic times and in the absence rather than through support of state assistants (Doyle and Lalor 2012). Despite the progress made, however, the sector has not lived up to its full potential as yet, and growth rates remain largely underdeveloped in comparison with other European countries (Social Enterprise Task Force 2010).

Purpose: This study is an investigation of the internal and external determinants on firm growth in social enterprises operating in Ireland. Its aim is to gain a deeper understanding of how Irish social enterprises grow and what firm growth means to social entrepreneurs. Specifically, it investigates how a range of individual characteristics (mental models, abilities, capabilities, values), firm characteristics (owner ship, management structures, age, sector) and firm dynamics (internals: activities, relationships, business model, and externals: relationships, networks, micro-economics) significantly influences firm growth in social enterprises.

Proposed design/methodology/approach: This research applies a mixed methods approach following calls from the mainstream growth literature for more qualitative research (adding more context to data) and the social entrepreneurship literature for more quantitative research (less story telling).

Originality/value: To the best of the researcher’s knowledge, this research is unique. In the mainstream growth literature, there are a number of areas that have been already researched. This research, however, explores those areas in the context of social enterprises, which has not been done before, not only in Ireland but also generally.

Anticipated research outcomes: This research intends to add to the knowledge base on social entrepreneurship in Ireland and provide an opportunity to link both, the mainstream and the social entrepreneurship literature in the context of firm growth. It is also beneficial to understand how government and training agencies can help social entrepreneurs in developing their firms. Thus, it may help to create an enhanced and more appropriate set of interventions (financial and non-financial) to stimulate growth in those enterprises. Finally, the research will also assist social entrepreneurs to advance their understanding of how like-minded entrepreneurs managed the challenge of expanding their enterprises and the issues they faced along the way.

Publications/presentations to date: 

The research was presented at the KBS PhD Colloquium in September 2013

Details of any scholarships/funding received (NOT USED): 
European fee waver
Social Entrepreneurship, Firm Growth, Small Firm Dynamics, Social Enterprise, Entrepreneurial Activities
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