In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Journal of Management, 45, 2019, 1, p. 70-95
Cited as: Saebi, T., Foss, N. J., & Linder, S. (2019). Social Entrepreneurship Research: Past Achievements and Future Promises. Journal of Management, 45(1), 70–95.


The past decade has witnessed a surge of research interest in social entrepreneurship (SE). This has resulted in important insights concerning the role of SE in fostering inclusive growth and institutional change. However, the rapid growth of SE research, the emerging nature of the literature, and the fact that SE builds on different disciplines and fields (e.g., entrepreneurship, sociology, economics, ethics) have led to a rather fragmented literature without dominant frameworks. This situation risks leading to a duplication of efforts and hampers cumulative knowledge growth. Drawing on 395 peer-reviewed articles on SE, we (1) identify gaps in SE research on three levels of analysis (i.e., individual, organizational, institutional), (2) proffer an integrative multistage, multilevel framework, and (3) discuss promising avenues for further research on SE.


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To further research, the authors advocate a view of SE as a hybrid form, where the dual mission of social and economic value creation acts as an essential criterion to delineate SE from other related phenomena. Also, there is a lack of large-scale empirical data hampers evaluating the true effects of SE on a societal level. While SE has been touted as a powerful mechanism to alleviate poverty and bring about institutional change, robust and longitudinal evidence to back up these claims. Third, research typically engages with only one level of analysis at a time. However, SE is inherently a multilevel phenomenon, and conducting research at only one analytical level not only misrepresents the phenomenon but also, risks foregoing the opportunities for advancing knowledge by means of multilevel research (see Shepherd, 2011) into SE phenomena. In fact, the focus on only one level of analysis at a time that we discern in the literature renders understanding the antecedents and outcomes of SE difficult.