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

Gemma Donnelly-Cox and Mary Lee Rhodes

Presentation slides:


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.