Berlin session 3

“Social Entrepreneurship as a transformative force towards sustainability”

Chairs: Nikolay Dentchev, Philippe Eiselein, and Abel Diaz Gonzalez

Social entrepreneurs deal with social problems and entrepreneurial opportunities at the same time (Austin, Howard, & Wei-Skillern, 2006), and hence they are frequently referred to as “hybrid organizations” (Doherty, Haugh, & Lyon, 2014), “social enterprises” (Defourny & Nyssens, 2017) or “social ventures” (Desa & Basu, 2013). Due to their innovative approach towards social problems, social entrepreneurs often introduce new breed of business models, where “the logic of doing business is based on solving environmental and social sustainability problems” (Schaltegger, Lüdeke-Freund, & Hansen, 2012, p.7).

Despite the honourable efforts of these organizations, they face several difficulties on their quest towards a more sustainable society. Amongst them, solving “social problems often demand fundamental transformations in political, economic and social systems” (Alvord, Brown, & Letts, 2004, p.260). Such transformations take time, which offsets the financial needs of the organization on the short term, one of the key challenges for social enterprises.

Considering the long-term objectives versus the short-term needs of the social enterprise, as well as the high-risk of failure, can we truly mark social entrepreneurship as a transformative force towards sustainability? How deep goes their impact in “enhancing the quality of life and enriching human existence around the globe” (Zahra, Rawhouser, Bhawe, Neubaum, & Hayton, 2008, p. 129)? And do cross-sectoral partnerships really hold the key for innovation and transformation towards a more sustainable society (Selsky & Parker, 2005)?

This session invites all types of research, ranging from literature reviews to conceptual papers, qualitative research, quantitative research, and mixed methods. We welcome papers that critically discuss the transformative achievements of social entrepreneurship. Topics of discussion may include social impact (measurement or investing), organizational design, business models, ecosystems perspective, and bottom of the pyramid. This is of course non-exhaustive as we are open for interesting ideas and discussions !

Contact information:

Prof. Dr. Nikolay Dentchev
Vrije Universiteit Brussel



Alvord, S. H., Brown, L. D., & Letts, C. W. (2004). Social Entrepreneurship and Societal Transformation. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 40(3), 260–282.

Austin, J., Howard, S., & Wei-Skillern, J. (2006). Social and Commercial Entrepreneurship: Same, Different, or Both? Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 30(1), 1–22.

Defourny, J., & Nyssens, M. (2017). Fundamentals for an International Typology of Social Enterprise Models. Voluntas, 28(6), 2469–2497.


Doherty, B., Haugh, H., & Lyon, F. (2014). Social enterprises as hybrid organizations: A review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(4), 417–436.

Schaltegger, S., Lüdeke-Freund, F., & Hansen, E. G. (2012). Business cases for sustainability: The role of business model innovation for corporate sustainability. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 6(2), 95–119.

Selsky, J. W., & Parker, B. (2005). Cross-Sector Partnerships to Address Social Issues : Challenges to Theory and Practice. Journal of Management, 31(6), 849–873.

Zahra, S. A., Rawhouser, H., Bhawe, N., Neubaum, D. O., & Hayton, J. (2008). GLOBALIZATION OF SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP OPPORTUNITIES. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 2, 117–131.