Does Socially Entrepreneurial Behavior differ from Regular Entrepreneurship?

Do social entrepreneurs really differ from other/non-social entrepreneurs at a behavioral level? Therefore, could we demonstrate de differences that enhance their pro-social behavior?

In a recent and controversial study, Dacin, Dacin and Matear (2010) pointed out this question. They pointed out that parameters for research such as the decision making process, entrepreneurial process or the attitudinal profile of both kind of entrepreneurs could remain the same from one to another. Thus, there would not be any difference in between to justify the recent interest of academy in the field of social entrepreneurship. 

No doubt that this is could be a realistic statement. Nevertheless, the fact –data- indicates that all entrepreneurs do not behave the same manner, nor socially aware. And besides, the key element that enhances entrepreneurial behavior is regularly defined as “personal trait”, “psychosocial attribute” or “temperament; all being personal and subjective elements, untransferable from one person to another. Accordingly, the research seems, again, necessary to understand the data and researchers should go further in defining social entrepreneurial behavior.

We recently have developed a research that aims to make, somehow, these different personal traits relevant in understanding social entrepreneurial behavior, by using intentional models . We conducted the study through four case studies, 24 interviews and tests with experts from different fields, and 79 university students that include entrepreneurial education in their grade studies.

Moreover, we built this research upon three axes -emotional intelligence, pro-social values and entrepreneurial attitudes- and their influence over desirability and viability perception, besides entrepreneurial intentions (see the model below). We checked statistically our model called ISE (Intención Socialmente Emprendedora) showing the interrelationships as follows:


We want to point out three key facts we found out for success as a social entrepreneur from our research. The first one, and related to the intentional process, is the mediation of Emotional Intelligence between what we called values and attitudes. A social entrepreneur, thus, is considered to use on an intelligent manner their emotions to achieve a positive attitude towards the behavioral intention. This fact is not restrictive to social entrepreneurs, and so, it is applicable to entrepreneurs of all kind. Accordingly, it supports, partially, the discussion referred initially, started by Dacin, Dacin and Matear (2010).

This issue is especially welcome in the field of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs usually face social problems that are very complex to manage at the emotional level –we also pointed out the paper played by the difference between feeling empathy versus feeling “sympathy” over the community attended and its influence on the behavior the social agent demonstrates.

Our second key fact to success becomes, hence, to their emotionally competent stimulus being often negative and intense. This fact stresses out their capability to build a positive attitude based on this negative emotion, therefore, using their emotions on an intelligent manner. This makes a big difference among other social agents and regular entrepreneurs: it would make the social entrepreneur theoretically keener on managing their emotions in both, inner and outer scenarios. Hence, emotional intelligence plays a key role on building up social entrepreneurial intentions.

The third key success fact we want to underline from the research, is the human natural pro-social behavior. With this intentional model we just pointed out the importance of the inner and emotional realm in our decision making processes. The human been is naturally social, a group builder. Therefore, all our actions should be socially oriented. Taking this statement to the field of social entrepreneurship, being social entrepreneur should be the natural behavioral pattern.

However, why is not it the regular manner to act? Our study shows the education given at first years of school as a driver for this social-sympathy to remain over time. Reeducating future entrepreneurs at the university level towards social values – as is done nowadays in the sample we examined- maybe too late for this natural tendency to stay alive. Maybe, promoting socially oriented entrepreneurial behaviors among elementary students could be a simple formula to make the socially entrepreneurial equation work. In this case, data would be closer to the statement pointed out by Dacin, Dacin and Matear (2010).

To finish, being a social entrepreneur and a regular entrepreneur differs at the first step of the entrepreneurial process –mostly in the case for an “opportunity entrepreneurship”. Pro-social values trigger the pro-social entrepreneurship and the emotional intelligence drives all the process. The human been are naturally gifted with social deep values that need just to be put into practice as soon as possible to make all the social entrepreneurial behavior become a habit. If this works, we will be talking about the business –non triple bottomed– entrepreneurship as a residual behavior in a few decades; it is just human nature.

By Anaïs Iglesias, PhD Researcher at Deusto Entrepreneurship Centre

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