Abstract

Two decades ago, entrepreneurship scholarship began to shift from a focus on the supply of entrepreneurs and what makes entrepreneurs special to the social and economic opportunity, incentive, network and institutional structures that support or hinder the founding of new enterprises (Gartner, 1988; Thornton, 1999). This shift has led to tremendous increase in the volume, rigor, and legitimacy of entrepreneurship research and notable theoretical strides in areas such as opportunity structure (Shane & Venkatraman, 2000). Somewhat neglected in this flowering has been the institutional context that frames the process (Aldrich & Fiol, 1994; Baumol, 1996) and the social, contextual, path-dependent dynamics that guide its evolution (Hoang & Antoncic, 2003; Low & Abrahamson, 1997). The study of social entrepreneurship seems poised to make a similar shift in emphasis from actor and enterprise to process and context and from exploration of a phenomenon to contribution to theory (Mair et. al., 2006; Austin et. al., 2006). Our research shows both that the shift to theory has begun and how the study of social entrepreneurship promises new insight into the under-appreciated social and institutional contexts of entrepreneurship.

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