Doctoral dissertation: Debunking the heroic social entrepreneurship myth

Social entrepreneurship is about mundane work and not about heroism, argues Eeva Houtbeckers in her dissertation to be defended on 28 October.

Social entrepreneurship has been developed as a reaction to “conventional” entrepreneurship, which is connected with maximising profits and taking risks. The uncritical understanding of social entrepreneurship repeats the myth of a heroic individual, also commonly linked to entrepreneurship. Houtbeckers’ study challenges this and other myths related to social entrepreneurship by examining mundane work practices.

Mundaneness essential for understanding phenomena

Because social entrepreneurship and conventional entrepreneurship are empty signifiers, examining mundane work is essential for understanding the phenomena. In her research, Houtbeckers focused on four organisations within the fields of co-working spaces, open data, recycled clothing, and veganism. All of these organisations had been established to address or resolve societal challenges.

– It has been difficult to position these young urban entrepreneurs who aim to make a living by addressing contemporary challenges. Yet their work needs to be understood as one means of practicing entrepreneurship, comments Houtbeckers.

However, any reference to social entrepreneurship creates an implicit juxtaposition between social and conventional entrepreneurship.

– Previous research has shown that it is impossible to provide an exhaustive definition for entrepreneurship. Therefore, Houtbeckers argues, there is no “conventional” or “social” entrepreneurship, rather entrepreneurships which represent a variety of everyday practices.

The microentrepreneurs followed for the study aimed at influencing existing practices with business ideas stemming from their concerns on the contemporary issues, such as clearcutting rainforest or intensive animal farming. However, the microentrepreneurs were limited in their power to affect wide-ranging processes. Nevertheless, social entrepreneurship as a popular concept could be a rational and socially acceptable way to disguise radical aims for social change and provide space for experimenting with marginal ideas that may challenge existing ways of doing things. Thus, social entrepreneurship can be understood as everyday activism.

– If there is something heroic in social entrepreneurship, it is the mundaneness of the work, claims Houtbeckers. Understanding this is essential for considering entrepreneurship as a means to solve or alleviate complex societal challenges.

The doctoral dissertation of Eeva Houtbeckers, M. Sc. (Econ.), in the field of Organization and Management “Mundane social entrepreneurship. A practice perspective on the work of microentrepreneurs.” will be publicly examined at the Aalto University School of Business on Friday, 28 October 2016. The defence of the dissertation will be held in the Chydenia building (address: Runeberginkatu 22-24, Helsinki, Finland): Saastamoinen Foundation Hall (3rd floor), starting at 12 p.m. (noon). Opponent: Professor Karin Berglund (Stockholm University); Custos: Professor Minna Halme (Aalto University).

Eeva Houtbeckers’ dissertation has been published in the Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS (171/2016). The dissertation will be published electronically in Aaltodoc service https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi

Further information:
Eeva Houtbeckers
045 676 0608
eeva.houtbeckers@aalto.fi

Twitter: @aatteinen
Blog: https://aatteinen.wordpress.com/doctoral-dissertation

 

thebook

Duct tape news

News are said to become shallow. No wonder when we consider the way average reader spends time reading one article, not to mention the cuts in newspaper staff. Sacking journalists is due to the decline in orders for printed newspapers. Orders are expected to decline more as electronic publications conquer the domain.

For some time I have managed to not to read a newspaper every morning. To some this is a disgrace. For me it has been an attempt to clear some capacity for my Phd study. It really takes drastic measures to avoid procrastination.

I have not totally left following the world. Instead, I have focused my little leftover energy on following news weekly via one or two magazines. They have interesting longer stories and articles, which to me seem more rewarding to read.

To me keeping up with my field social entrepreneurship and related topics has benefited from Twitter and other social media. As a junior expert I consider already having some capacity to interpret 140 characters of information and turn it into relevant knowledge.

And that’s the trick: it is harder to be a critical reader of a topic new to me. Thus, I need more relevant information. In a quality magazine this is done for me by someone hopefully following the ethical guidelines of journalism. Again, when familiarising with news related to my field, I can evaluate the argument better alone.

Despite the fact I miss terribly the smell of a morning paper and the physical event of taking time for reading over a table, currently I have prioritised other things over this practice. I feel sad for the newspaper industry as I really like the idea of reading a paper version daily. And I can see the benefits of someone having to at least skim topics one otherwise wouldn’t. I wonder if my magazine reading will do open up my horizons enough?

Then there is the industry of news: one sentence from a PhD study is sad. But this is what happened: I heard news over the radio and results from one study were dealt in one sentence. If my PhD study ever gets to the radio news, that’ll probably be my treatment as well. One sentence. We were joking with a colleague that the use of duct tape might give us a second sentence: “Interestingly, the results were gained by using duct tape.”
Am I as the producer of new knowledge contributing to the fast information? I would prefer increasing the amount of slow news and perhaps then knowledge.