Generic Case Study for Discussion

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“Assume the following generic case study of a social entrepreneurial project in a community within a developed country. The issue for which the social entrepreneurial program is being establish concerns the growing number of homeless people populating this particular community due to a number of factors including a drastic increase in house forclosures resulting from the sub-prime loan crisis, growing unemployment, police actions against the homeless in neighboring communities, and immigration (legal and illegal). The new homeless are sleeping in abandoned lots, behind stores in alleys, and wherever they think they won’t be bothered. They are building little shelters from cardboard boxes, found sheet metal, and plastic bags found on the street and in garbage cans. Besides the obvious presence of the new homeless population, there is a dramatic increase in panhandling on the community’s street. It is also apparent that many of the homeless appear sick with many in fact showing up in local emergency rooms of community hospitals with a host of different illnesses, most of which
are due to exposure to the weather, malnourishment, and lack of hygiene.

There are of course a number of ways that one can approach this issue from a social entrepreneurial perspective. However, what specifically can complexity theory offer, besides more mainstream approaches to social entrepreneurship, that could increase the likelihood of success for this program? Please feel free to add any more detail to the case to provoke further discussion.”

Addition proposed by S. Ross, May 16: "This case presentation acknowledges the "old" homeless population and is not indifferent to it. The project (this hypothetical social entrepreneurial effort) builds in procedures and processes to intentionally build transferrable knowledge that may inform methods and systems to address the perennial homeless issue at the same time it addresses the new homeless. It recognizes that there are *some* (but might we question how many, really, and how might the project compare and measure them?) quite different parameters with chronic homeless populations. Motivated by ethical principles, the project seeks deliberate learning transfer and generalizable knowledge."

Empirical Case Studies

Members are invited to list there case studies here and provide a short description. You can then provide a hyperlink to other pages or references to provide more detail.

Adaptive Responsibilities: Non-Linear Interactions across Social Sectors Cases from Cross Sector Social Partnerships

Dr. Maria May Seitanidi
Lecturer, Brunel Business School
Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
Visiting Fellow
ICCSR-International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility
Nottingham University Business School

An exploratory study of Western Canadian cross-sector partnerships using complex systems thinking

Jessica Mankowski
MES Candidate, 2008
School for Resource and Environmental Studies
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

In What Way is Social Entrepreneurship 'Complex': The Case of 'Front Line'

Gemma Donnelly-Cox and Mary Lee Rhodes

Presentation slides: external image ISCE 2008_final_24 Apr.ppt


In this paper we explore how the complexity theory concepts may be applied to social entrepreneurship to generate new insights for theory and practice, along with some of the challenges that social entrepreneurship presents for complexity theorists. The first part of the paper presents definitions of social entrepreneurship and some of the issues associated with the study of this phenomenon, followed by a description of the various types of complexity theory and a proposal for which of these provides a suitable framework for studying social entrepreneurship. The framework chosen is a form of complex adaptive system; the ‘performance landscape’ (Siggelkow & Levinthal 2003). The second part of the paper uses this framework to explore a case study in social entrepreneurship in Ireland: the establishment of a new organisation – “Front Line”. This case provides a singular opportunity to examine how the processes of self-organisation, learning, adaptation and emergence manifest in the early days of a social entrepreneurial venture. In the conclusion, we highlight the insights for theory and practice arising from this analysis and discuss some of the gaps in the proposed framework.