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Social Entrepreneurship in Non-munificent Institutional Environments and Implications for Institutional Work: Insights from China

Abstract

We investigate the research question: Why are there very few social enterprises in China? Our findings unpack four types of institutional challenges to social entrepreneurship, as perceived by social entrepreneurs: norms of a strong role for government; misunderstood or unknown role for social enterprises; non-supportive rules and regulations; and lack of socio-cultural values and beliefs in support of social goals. We contribute to the literature on social enterprises by showing how an institutional environment may be “non-munificent,” i.e., non-supportive for the existence of social enterprises and their goals, and we thus address the need for more attention to the institutional environment in which social entrepreneurship takes place. Further, by using Q-methodology on 42 social entrepreneurs along with illustrative qualitative data from interviews, we address the need to go beyond anecdotal case studies and introduce methodological plurality in social entrepreneurship research. Finally, our findings on institutional challenges provide us with an opportunity to discuss how social entrepreneurs may engage with purposive activities to overcome such challenges, leading us to initiate a conversation between the social entrepreneurship and institutional work literatures.

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Notes

  1. For clarity, our respondents were provided further details to define a social enterprise: (a) Whether the core purpose of the entrepreneur is to address social issues, preferably one of the eight millennium development goals; (b) whether the entrepreneur has plans to generate internal funds (revenue) so that the organization becomes self-sustainable in the medium to long term (about 10 years); and (c) if and when the organization is able to generate more revenues than the expenses it incurs, whether those surpluses are invested back to expand the social impact.

  2. Twelfth Five-Year Plan Summary (2011) available from: http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2011-03/16/c_121193916_23.htm.

  3. We use China to include Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. We use Mainland China to refer to China excluding Hong Kong and Macau.

  4. It is possible that the choice of unstructured sampling might lead to over- or under-sampling of some opinions.

  5. It is important to clarify that our objective was not to achieve some sort of inter-rater reliability. We resorted to this approach for practical reasons because all of our respondents were Chinese speakers (a few of them were bilingual), and the authors only spoke very basic Chinese.

  6. We replicated the entire analysis using centroid method and found no difference in our results.

  7. For robustness, we also tried three-factor and five-factor solutions. These solutions suffered from the problem of high-factor inter-correlation and higher instances of mixed factor loadings, which obscures interpretation (Zwick and Velicer 1986).

  8. Private foundations are not allowed to accept donations from the public or to organize fund raising; they are generally funded by a major gift from a corporation or business family.

  9. Non-public foundations receive project-based grants from the government and other entities; they are not established by corporates or business families and are not allowed to raise donations from public.

  10. Red Cross Scandal, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2014-08/07/content_18265643.htm; Businessman Quits Amid China Red Cross Scandal, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia–pacific-14026592.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (GRF Grant: PolyU 548210 and PolyU 549211).

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Correspondence to Israr Qureshi.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 4.

Table 4 List of social entrepreneurs

Appendix 2

See Table 5.

Table 5 Q-sample, Z-scores and array position

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Bhatt, B., Qureshi, I. & Riaz, S. Social Entrepreneurship in Non-munificent Institutional Environments and Implications for Institutional Work: Insights from China. J Bus Ethics 154, 605–630 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3451-4

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Keywords

  • China
  • Institutional environment
  • Institutional work
  • Social enterprise
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Q-methodology
  • Qualitative study