Groundbreaking study tracks the distinctive characteristics of social entrepreneurship.

Ashoka, the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, has elected more than 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers in more than sixty countries.

In examining the work of these Ashoka Fellows, a question comes to mind: How do social entrepreneurs compare with commercial entrepreneurs?

A recent research project conducted by Colleen Post (MBA ’03, BFA ’00), associate director, Pino Center, and adjunct professor in entrepreneurship, management, and international business; and her colleague, Moriah Meyskens, a PhD student studying management and international business in the College of Business Administration, took on this query and in the process created a database of social entrepreneurs.

“Our research is one of the few larger-scale empirical studies of social entrepreneurs,” Post said. “Much case work has been done, but the field needs more quantitative research. We hope this database will help drive it in that direction.”

The study focuses on identifying patterns and relationships surrounding the strategies employed by social entrepreneurs and their ventures and comparing them to existing patterns and relationships previously identified in commercial entrepreneurship-related literatures.

The findings, which indicate that social entrepreneurs demonstrate similar patterns to commercial entrepreneurs, are assessed through two different lenses of analysis—alliances and knowledge management. Statistically significant relationships were found between alliances, funding sources, innovation, and ease of replication.

The research report, entitled “Social Venture Strategy from a Global Perspective: An Exploratory Study Assessing Ashoka Fellows,” was accepted for presentation at the prestigious 2008 Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference held June 4-7, 2008, at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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