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Title: Exploring the 'social' in social entrepreneurship : applying the concept of network sociality to social entrepreneurs
Author: Todres, Mathew
ISNI:       0000 0004 5917 8671
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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The purpose of this thesis is to mobilise the concept of network sociality (Wittel 2001) as a framework for exploring how social entrepreneurs enact social entrepreneurship. Specifically, this thesis questions the tendency to interpret social entrepreneurs and their ability to achieve their altruistic aim of solving social problems only in terms of the successful application of business practices such as financial control, marketing, and strategising. Instead it is argued that critically deploying the concept of network sociality does two things. Firstly, it highlights the importance of also depicting and understanding the nature of the social processes (i.e., interactions with other stakeholders) which play a crucial role in the success of social entrepreneurial activity. Network sociality therefore helps to conceptualise the under researched activities which precede social change. Secondly, this thesis facilitates a move away from the dominant stance in the literature where the social entrepreneur is conceptualised in terms of either an individualist 'solitary hero' operating alone without the assistance of others (Nicholls 2010), or alternatively as a communally embedded actor operating in the context of strong ties of solidarity (Hjorth and Bjerke 2006; Hjorth 2013; Steyaert and Hjorth 2007). The aim of this thesis is to shed light on the social processes inherent in doing business in a social entrepreneurship context, by drawing on data derived from 33 semi-structured interviews with social entrepreneurs located in the south east of England. An abductive analysis (Van Maanen, Sørensen and Mitchell 2007; Tavory and Timmermans 2014) whereby the interview data is read through the five dimensions of the concept of network sociality - individualisation, ephemeral relations, information exchange, assimilation of play and work, and use of technology - facilitates a critique of the literature privileging outcomes at the expense of conceptualising the social actions that precede and facilitate these outcomes (826 Seymour, Richard 2012), as well as the prevailing dichotomy in the social entrepreneurship literature where the 'social' element is conceptualised largely in collectivist (Hjorth 2013; Steyaert and Hjorth 2007), philanthropic (Tan, Williams and Tan 2003; Tan, Williams and Tan 2005) terms while the 'entrepreneurship' element is conceptualised in largely individualist business terms (Dees, Emerson and Economy 2002). The analysis sheds light on social entrepreneurship beyond the distinction of collective versus individual (Nicholls 2010). Through the use of the concept of network sociality, the thesis rather makes visible how the social entrepreneur engages in several social activities while operating in an individualistic manner to achieve social/business aims within the context of impermanent relationships (113 Wittel, Andreas 2001). The thesis concludes that it is in researching and conceptualising what social entrepreneurs do, that we can better understand who social entrepreneurs are, in their missions to secure positive solutions to social problems.
Supervisor: Lewis, Patricia ; Laffey, Des Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General)