Social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial learning in the cultural context

Ulla Hytti (Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku, Pori, Finland)
Arja Lemmetyinen (Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku, Pori, Finland)

Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy

ISSN: 1750-6204

Article publication date: 9 March 2015


Hytti, U. and Lemmetyinen, A. (2015), "Social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial learning in the cultural context", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 9 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial learning in the cultural context

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Volume 9, Issue 1

As measured by all manner of indicators, including dedicated journals, special issues, journal articles and chairs, entrepreneurship research has gained a strong foothold within business disciplines. In the past, researchers attempting to answer the question of who becomes an entrepreneur, and why some people become entrepreneurs but not all were particularly fascinated by the entrepreneurial personality and motivations (Gartner, 1988, 1989; Bird, 1989; Boyd and Vozikis, 1994, Baron, 1998). At the turn of the century, the interest within entrepreneurship research moved from the person to the process. The seminal article by Shane and Venkataraman (2000) led to the field of entrepreneurship being characterized by the process of identification and exploitation of opportunities. The article sparked an ongoing debate within the entrepreneurship research field on the nature and sources of opportunities and whether opportunities can be searched for or found, or need to be created, or whether both processes take place simultaneously or if there are in fact different types of opportunities, some of which can be discovered, while others must be created (Alvarez and Barney, 2007; Eckhardt and Shane, 2003; McMullen et al., 2007; Companys and McMullen, 2007, Ucbasaran et al., 2009; Zahra, 2008; Sarasvathy et al., 2010).

At the same time, entrepreneurship research is increasingly paying attention to the role of contexts (Welter, 2011) to make sense of the processes underpinning becoming an entrepreneur and opportunity discovery and creation. Clearly, different cultural and social contexts exert an influence. This special issue taps into and sheds light on these different and sometimes unique contexts. Most of the theorizing within entrepreneurship research is at least implicitly based on the idea of a formal economy. Yet, in many parts of the world, entrepreneurial small businesses and ventures are part of the informal economy, which will be addressed in the paper by Gordin and Dedova (this issue).

Similarly, the cultural and historical context may offer entrepreneurial opportunities. This issue includes a paper by Gordin and Dedova (this issue) investigating re-enactment festivals as a cultural event. Similarly, Elfving contextualizes her study in one culturally and historically important place, while Raudsaar and Summatavet investigate the cultural heritage of a region as a source of new ideas and ventures.

What unites these papers is the idea of a situated context that is important for entrepreneurship. It is within this particular context that possibilities become opportunities or the contexts provide the new ventures with unique resources. Without understanding the context, it might be difficult to see and understand the opportunities entrepreneurs are trying to exploit, for example, the idea of manufacturing swords could be considered an outdated idea without adding the context of re-enactment festivals. These debates link to Fletcher’s (2006) idea of socially constructed opportunities and view opportunity emergence as relationally and communally constituted. This view helps us to not only move away from over-weighting the agency of individuals but also to start from the whole set of human relations and their social context. This challenges the linear, individualistic and descriptive models of opportunity processes and helps to account for the spatial aspects of opportunity recognition.

Entrepreneurship has also been primarily understood as the process of creating economic value. Recently, however, its purpose has been extended to cover the creation of social value. Hence, a new strand of social entrepreneurship research has emerged and grown as an important sub-field of entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is defined as “innovative, social value creating activity that can occur within or across the nonprofit, business, or government sectors” (Austin et al., 2006). In this special issue, Gordin and Dedova investigate social entrepreneurship in the context of an informal economy, and Elfving probes the question of developing an identity as a social entrepreneur.

Linked to the questions of who becomes an entrepreneur and how opportunities are discovered or created, is the question whether these processes can be taught and learned, and if so, how, and whether formal education has a part to play in this process (Kyrö and Hytti, 2014). While entrepreneurship education has many aims and goals (Hytti and O’Gorman, 2004) reflecting the level of education, these different levels can also be viewed as a path. In this issue, Hietanen and Järvi discuss this path from basic to vocational education. To date, the focus has been very much on learners, but in this issue Rönkkö and Lepistö extend the view to the teachers, and why teachers’ understanding of enterprise education is important.

Finally, an important strand of research emphasizes that entrepreneurship is a process of learning and that entrepreneurs “learn as they go” (Van Gelderen et al., 2005). This learning is a social, not an isolated individual process. Nieminen and Lemmetyinen (this issue) present a framework for entrepreneurial learning in networks.

This special issue of Journal of Enterprising Communities presents papers from the Cultural Entrepreneurship Conference held in Pori, Finland, in December 2012. The six papers offer a new contribution to the emerging debates outlined above.

The first three papers focus on social entrepreneurship in the cultural context. The first of those, entitled “Social entrepreneurship in the informal economy: a case study of re-enactment festivals” and written by Valery Gordin and Mariya Dedova, emphasizes the emergence of a novel type of social entrepreneurship. In doing so, it generates new information on the types of entrepreneurial activities found at re-enactment festivals and their importance to the re-enactors. The case study strongly implies that supporting the type of entrepreneurial initiative would facilitate social entrepreneurship in the formal sector too.

The focus of the second paper, entitled “Supporting the cause – a case study on social entrepreneurial identity at the Rosenlund heritage site”, written by Jennie Elfving, is on the cognition and perception processes in a social enterprise. The study shows that the identity of the organization can be described as causal, collective and thin, and these descriptions also represent the many layers of the organizational identity.

The third paper, entitled “Cultural heritage and entrepreneurship – inspiration for novel ventures creation”, written by Mervi Raudsaar and Kärt Summatavet, focuses on the experiential knowledge of creative entrepreneurs. The paper questions how it is possible to integrate and harmonize product development and entrepreneurial training. The authors conclude from their cases that the individual entrepreneur is successful only when the entrepreneurial idea engages the tangible and intangible shared values and needs of the local community.

The following three papers discuss entrepreneurial learning in both basic and vocational education and in networks, and offer some critical conceptions of entrepreneurship education. The first of these, entitled “Contextualizing entrepreneurial learning in basic and vocational education” and written by Lenita Hietanen and Taina Järvi, examines and models entrepreneurial learning processes as a continuum from non-business basic education to vocational education. The authors conclude that this kind of model of the learning environment could facilitate learners in managing their own learning path and entrepreneurial growth even at the level of basic education.

The second paper, entitled “Finnish student teachers’ critical conceptions of entrepreneurial education”, written by Marja-Leena Rönkkö and Jaana Lepistö, focuses on revealing and investigating differences in how the Finnish student teachers understand entrepreneurship education and on their criticisms of it. The authors conclude by calling for a change in the public approach to education that would encourage active learning, providing new experiences for pupils beyond the classroom and which would address key aspects of life.

Finally, the paper entitled “A value-creating framework for enhancing entrepreneurial learning in networks” written by Lenita Nieminen and Arja Lemmetyinen aims at conceptualizing and outlining the social infrastructure that nurtures and strengthens the cooperation in cultural tourism business networks and facilitates entrepreneurial learning. The authors explored three levels of cooperation, the functional, the relational and the symbolic level and were able to construct a value-creating framework.

With this volume the authors hope to arouse interest in these themes of entrepreneurial research. The authors would like to thank the editors of the Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy: Leo Dana and Dafna Kavir, for providing them a platform on which to present the studies in the current special issue. The authors also wish to thank all the reviewers for their invaluable constructive comments on the papers.

Ulla Hytti and Arja Lemmetyinen, Guest editors


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