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Social Entrepreneurship and Social Business: An Introduction and Discussion with Case Studies

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Social entrepreneurship has become a relevant topic in business, society and politics. Public attention has also been aroused through the increasing presence of social entrepreneurs in the media and numerous popular science publications. Here we may mention David Bornstein ´s book “How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas” (2004) as well as “The Power of Unreasonable People” by Elkington und Hartigan (Bornstein, 2004, Elkington and Hartigan 2008).1 In his case-study based publication, Bornstein highlights the power (vision, mission and passion) of individual social entrepreneurs in various historical, economic, legal, political and socio-cultural contexts. Many other recent publications in this field focus on the person of the social entrepreneur rather than on the economic function of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs act as „change agents and engines“ of social and economic progress and bring about positive change in the economy as well as the society through their pro-active and innovative activities. Literature on social entrepreneurship often focuses on role models such as Muhammad Yunus.

Some researchers argue that social entrepreneurship is a phenomenon which is anything but new (Boddice, 2009). For example, Bornstein and Davis (2010, p. 2) state: “Social entrepreneurs have always existed. But in the past they were called visionaries, humanitarians, philanthropists, reformers, saints, or simply great leaders”. Maybe social entrepreneurship is as old as mankind itself. Nonetheless, their work today is different because it has achieved a potentially global scale (Nicholls, 2006a). At any rate, the term social entrepreneurship is relatively new. Therefore, it is worthwhile to investigate how this modern-day, worldwide social movement came about and how the concept of social entrepreneurship could be described and explained.
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