"Winging It" is Not Enough


Some social entrepreneurs have built successful enterprises despite a lack of training and experience specific to their responsibilities. Their inspiring stories betray an unsettling weakness about the social enterprise sector, however: how low a capacity it has for preparing effective leaders.

To help correct this, researchers have examined the background, motives, learning, and values of successful social entrepreneurs, and juxtaposed their qualities with those of for-profit entrepreneurs. The research focussed on 11 leaders and founders of employment development initiatives that have operated for more than three years. Their backgrounds were exceptionally varied, including social services, commerce, and the arts. All encountered a steep learning curve which they climbed by means of friends, street smarts, and trial and error - not through training and support specific to social enterprise.

Social entrepreneurs require a range of venues in which to acquire a unique blend of skills: general business, social service, and industry-specific. It's not enough to supplement existing management degrees with social enterprise modules. Social entrepreneurs are a distinct type of professional requiring training tailored to their needs and delivered at a time that suits them and their employees.

Building capacity within the social enterprise sector
Mader, Kristi
Markey, Sean
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