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A pragmatic perspective on social entrepreneurial opportunities

Lauren Zettel (Department of Entrepreneurship, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, USA)
Robert Garrett (Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 6 June 2023

Issue publication date: 13 June 2023




Scholars have applied a number of theoretical perspectives to enhance understanding of social entrepreneurial opportunities, and have most recently turned to the lens of critical realism. Although this metatheoretical perspective overcomes some problems with previous views and helps to identify the essence of a construct, the level of abstraction required by this approach leaves unanswered questions related to how social entrepreneurs leverage opportunities. The purpose of this paper is to create a framework to describe social entrepreneurial opportunities in a way that facilitates action and decision-making by social entrepreneurs.


Through adapting Davidsson's (2015) deconstruction of the opportunity construct and using it to inform the pragmatist view of entrepreneurs as theory-testing scientists, this paper develops a framework for understanding social entrepreneurial opportunities. The paper explores the idea that social opportunities are composed of external enablers, a new social venture idea, and social opportunity confidence, and integrates the existing literature on social opportunities into this framework.


Using the framework developed, the authors advance a template of questions, hypotheses and quasi-experimental means that social entrepreneurs can use to determine how to move forward in social opportunity actualization. The authors also expand three categories of research questions that scholars may explore to extend the practical and theoretical understanding of social opportunities.


This work is among the first to adopt the pragmatist lens to elucidate social opportunities in a practical way. It takes an important first step in offering a means for social entrepreneurs to investigate when or where the requisite components of a social entrepreneurial opportunity may exist. Furthermore, it advances the pragmatist perspective of social opportunities by using Davidsson's model to explain the components of theories about what may or may not be a social opportunity.



Zettel, L. and Garrett, R. (2023), "A pragmatic perspective on social entrepreneurial opportunities", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 1376-1395.



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