The world of the social entrepreneur

John L. Thompson (Huddersfield University Business School, Huddersfield, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 1 September 2002


The term “social entrepreneurship” is being adopted and used more extensively, but its meaning is not widely understood. In particular, the scope of social entrepreneurship in both business and the voluntary sector has not been mapped effectively. This paper seeks to do this. It begins by defining social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship. Then, using projects considered for a charter award under the Duke of York’s Community Initiative, it looks at what social entrepreneurs do and achieve for the community, at the wide scope of their world, and at the help that is available and needed. The paper includes two case studies of successful social entrepreneurs as a means of drawing out a number of important issues and lessons. It provides a new map for understanding the complexity and the many facets of the world of the social entrepreneur and the voluntary sector. It questions whether the UK government’s stated desire for an “explosive act” of volunteering can happen without more substantial support, and concludes that whilst the growth of this sector is urgent and vital, a number of hurdles remain to be overcome.



Thompson, J.L. (2002), "The world of the social entrepreneur", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 15 No. 5, pp. 412-431.

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Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited

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