In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: SSRN Electronic Journal
Cited as: Sena, Santiago and Pasquini, Ricardo, What Causes Social Entrepreneurship? Emancipation as an Explanatory Framework (June 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: or


What causes the emergence of social entrepreneurship at a societal level? This paper proposes that emancipatory theory (Welzel, 2013) provides an adequate theoretical framework in which to comprehensively understand the emergence of social entrepreneurship as an emancipatory phenomenon (Rindova et al., 2009). We first theoretically identify the elements of the human empowerment process (action resources, emancipative values and civic entitlements, in this sequence) that drive the emergence of social entrepreneurship. Second, we empirically test our propositions by explaining GEM’s SE rate in a panel of countries for the years 2009 and 2015. Our empirical results confirm the relevance of the main elements proposed by our theory.

PDF Preview
0 Downloads | 0.00 KB

Recommendations from this resource

Policy Makers

The first conclusion for policymakers that emerges from this study is to develop capabilities among people as action resources represent the founding element of the human empowerment process. Existentially empowered people are “capable of” since they have enough resources to direct and follow their ideas towards the direction they choose. Therefore, working towards massive access to technology will amplify labor productivity, mobilize intellectual capacities, and interlink people. A second recommendation for policymakers is that once having empowered people by promoting massive access to technology, augmenting GDP per capita, improving the average years of education of the population, etc. to promote freedoms and guarantee them institutionally, regarding both formal and informal institutions. These guarantees for personal and civic agency will further promote the emergence of social entrepreneurial initiatives.

Future Research

An interesting avenue of research is related with differences in social entrepreneurship within countries. The proposed theoretical framework is consistent with the idea of entrepreneurial activities undertaken by a relatively more emancipated segment of the population with impacts in the rest of the society. Assuming that poorer countries will be better represented in future samples and that people answering about social entrepreneurship will be able of differentiating the phenomenon from, for example, necessity entrepreneurship, it would be interesting to inquire: who are the entrepreneurs starting social businesses in less developed countries? Are the empowered and the emancipated segments of society doing this? Introducing the impact of foreign direct aid and of external social entrepreneurs in the data would be relevant. Following the proposed theory in this paper, empowered individuals or groups are those promoting the lives of others.
It is necessary to further study this conclusion with the literature in social entrepreneurship, in empowerment and in social movement theory, including resistance and collective mobilization, that focuses in self-managed groups or in grassroot groups that initiate emancipative initiatives without “external” interventions, Other future research opportunities include a deeper analysis of the intersection of wealth, the role of government and the emergence of social entrepreneurship; to further study the role of gender in relation to emancipatory social entrepreneurship.