Social Entrepreneurship and Community Connections

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While much is known about entrepreneurial business practices, there is little research about the relational conditions under which social entrepreneurship works. This is particularly so when considering the communities in which social entrepreneurship operates. Specifically, little is known about relational aspects between social entrepreneurs who complete affordable housing developments and community stakeholders. When it comes to considering the community’s ability to have a voice in these projects, it is unclear where exactly, or even if, the community is heard. To explore this theme, the research adopts the conceptual framework of complexity theory, while undertaking case studies on social entrepreneurship in the context of affordable housing projects. The affordable housing case studies took place in both Canada and Australia, with four businesses where a social entrepreneur was a key participant. The research shows that contrary to the bulk of current literature the most effective social entrepreneurship does not and cannot exist as an autonomous practice taking a top-down approach. Making an impactful contribution is found to be significantly enhanced through social entrepreneurs closely considering the needs and ‘voice’ of those within the community whom they seek to serve (the future residents), and carefully navigating the broader community context in which the project takes place. Moreover, the creation of positive impact through social entrepreneurship in housing is reliant on a careful combining of several different stakeholders. It was found that in cases where a deeper connectivity between the social entrepreneur and other key stakeholders occured, richer results ensued. Key among stakeholders must be the community or individuals being served. This urges the development of a collaborative, inclusive and connected work environment, where expertise is shared and valued form each different group. The research for this thesis contributes to addressing a gap in the academic literature through identifying emergent themes which illustrate how social entrepreneurs interact with various community stakeholders. It considers the opportunities and challenges of each stakeholder to add to an understanding of how they are able to or restricted from collaboratively contributing. It highlights where and how the voices of community stakeholders are heard through shared expertise between all stakeholders and the implications of their inclusion in the activities of social entrepreneurship.
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