What motivates social entrepreneurs to start social ventures?

Seham Ghalwash (School of Business, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt)
Ahmed Tolba (School of Business, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt)
Ayman Ismail (School of Business, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Publication date: 7 August 2017



This study aims to explore the characteristics and backgrounds of social entrepreneurs, particularly in relation to what motivates them to start new social ventures, through an empirical examination of the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship in the specific context of Egypt.


The study adopts a qualitative methodological approach based on a triangulation of data sources, including extensive interviews from five social entrepreneurs, interviews with senior executives in their organisations and industry experts, as well as secondary data.


The paper proposes a model that integrates common characteristics and motivations among individuals who start social ventures. Findings confirm the characteristics of social entrepreneurs as compassionate risk-takers with entrepreneurial mindsets who seek to address social issues in innovative ways. They also have the perseverance to face the inefficient institutional frameworks prevalent in developing economies. Social entrepreneurs are motivated by social problems and challenges, inspiration, and previous personal experiences, as well as their social networks.

Research limitations/implications

There are limitations pertaining to the limited sample size and single country focus.

Practical implications

This research offers useful and practical insights for current and future social entrepreneurs, particularly in developing economies. Moreover, the study contributes to expanding future research on social entrepreneurship in similar contexts.


This study makes several contributions to the literature on social entrepreneurship. First, by presenting an integrated model for the characteristics/traits and motivations of social entrepreneur. Second, it provides deeper understanding of social entrepreneurship in emerging economies. Third, it highlights the importance of personal inspiration and informal social networks as two sources of motivation for social entrepreneurs, in emerging countries.



Ghalwash, S., Tolba, A. and Ismail, A. (2017), "What motivates social entrepreneurs to start social ventures?", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 268-298. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-05-2016-0014

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