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Commercial social spaces in the post-disaster context

Stefanie Haeffele (Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Alexander Wade Craig (Department of Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)

Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy

ISSN: 2045-2101

Article publication date: 30 June 2020

Issue publication date: 14 August 2020




This paper argues that commercial entrepreneurial activities have social implications and can provide needed social spaces during the disaster recovery process, and that viewing commercial enterprises as socially valuable has implications for post-disaster public policy.


This paper discusses themes and concepts developed through in-depth interviews conducted in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas, after Hurricane Katrina. Particular case studies of the personal experiences of communities that recovered after Hurricane Katrina are utilized to highlight how commercial entrepreneurship creates and maintains social spaces where community members can share resources and connect during the recovery process.


Entrepreneurs need not have a specific social mission in order to make social contributions, and commercial entrepreneurship should create and maintain social spaces that are important for community recovery after disasters.

Practical implications

The social spaces that commercial entrepreneurs facilitate should be considered when designing and implementing public policy in the post-disaster context. Policies can often hinder recovery, and policymakers should instead establish clear regulatory regimes and allow for greater space for entrepreneurs to act.


This paper highlights the role entrepreneurs play in advancing social goals and purposes after disasters, specifically how commercial entrepreneurs can create and maintain social spaces where community members gather to discuss their challenges and strategies for disaster recovery. It highlights the extra-economic role of commercial entrepreneurs and discusses the implications for public policy based on this broadened conception of entrepreneurship.



The authors appreciate the Mercatus Center at George Mason University for funding and support that made this research possible.


Haeffele, S. and Craig, A.W. (2020), "Commercial social spaces in the post-disaster context", Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 303-317.



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