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Title: Exploring organisational perspectives on, and approaches to, venture philanthropy amongst four funders (2011-2014) : convergence or divergence?
Author: Wu, Yan
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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Originating from Silicon Valley in the early 1990s, high-technology-oriented entrepreneurs-turned-philanthropists have applied venture capital principles to philanthropy in order to address intractable social problems, coining the term venture philanthropy (VP). Evolving from an emergent to a pervasive model in Europe in the last two decades, the VP approach has been considered as an innovative alternative to the traditional philanthropy (TP) type of benevolence and cheque-writing (Anheier and Leat 2006). With increasing expectations, in the context of governmental hollowing-out of social services, debate seems to have become polarised. VP is criticised for not being a solution to changes in the social landscape and for its business approaches failing to address fundamental social issues (Sievers 2001; Anheier and Leat 2006; Shiller 2012) and so remaining simply a myth. This research explores the nature of VP based on the organisational perspectives of four funders in Scotland, with a focus on the engagement process. The new empirical data regarding the funding distribution process are gathered with the aim of answering the core questions: 'why give', 'what to give' and 'how to give'. A new operational framework for analysing funders is developed and is used to analyse processual trajectories mapping the convergence and divergence amongst the four funders, citing new evidence from Scotland. Case studies from the years 2011 to 2014 present four grant-giving modes respectively: 1) pure grant-giving but emerging to a business approach applied to funding distribution; 2) grant-giving but applying venture capital approaches (VP); 3) mixed grants and repayable business loans; and 4) repayable business loans. To map the feature of emergent trajectory, a new operational framework is proposed and utilised for analysis. Research findings suggest that a pattern of resource heterogeneity is emerging in the four funding models in response to isomorphic forces. While dealing with inward (governance) and outward (market and political) legitimacy forces, hero-entrepreneurs are shown in the four cases as the key driver to identify the need for change and drive change forward. Meanwhile, hero-entrepreneurship behaviour is associated with the setting of goals, shaping the rationale of the funding scheme, marshalling resources and aligning with partners to demonstrate value adding through the engagement process. The contribution of this research to the philanthropic field is threefold. Firstly, with regard to its theoretical contribution, the findings support conventional isomorphic change theory by arguing: a) that the agent-conduit-roles of funders are not determined by structure, but rather individual agents (hero-entrepreneurs) play a cementing role in the change process of initiating, leading, diffusing influence and levering power for social change; and b) that in their agent-conduit-roles funders act as an active but reflective intermediary, change taking place in the process of legitimacy and resource distribution through the cycle of change-model shaping; convening and conducting; reflecting, dismantling and reshaping. This contribution enhances and complements the discovery by Mair and Hehenberger (2014), which suggests TP and VP create shared space for negotiation, shared objectives and a reflective isomorphic process (Nicholls 2010a). Arguably, funders should strategically consider complex and plural elements of funding and integrating a competitive market and a cooperative rationale with emotional motives into a decision-making. Realisation of social objectives will ultimately be achieved through reflective isomorphic processes, adjusting the funding structure to fit social contexts with convergent resources alignment. Secondly, with regard to its empirical contribution, this research proposes a new typology of funders. Different from the typology proposed by Ostrower (2006), the new typology proposal is based on what the funding is for. The elements of the new typology are synthesised from why, how and what in action, i.e. grant-giving mode, engagement approach and level of risks. Thirdly, practical contributions emerging from the implications of the proposed framework, which are discussed in the concluding chapter, may improve the quality of decision-making in funding behaviour and may also help to shape modes of governance for social problem-solving.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: venture philanthropy ; traditional philanthropy ; social investment ; isomorphic change ; social innovation ; entrepreneurship ; innovation