Beneficiary Engagement in Social Entrepreneurship: Perspectives on Social Value Creation Through the Lens of Care Ethics

Lorenzo-Afable, Diana Lynn
Lips-Wiersma, Marjolein
Singh, Smita
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Social value creation is central to social entrepreneurship theory and practice. While social entrepreneurship is usually posited as positive in that it promises to address complex social problems and achieve positive social change; recently, there have been numerous calls in the literature that question the ethical nature of social entrepreneurship, particularly with regard to how we know that it is in fact making a difference to its intended beneficiaries. Given that beneficiaries experience the positive outcomes of social entrepreneurship through social value creation, the thesis examines social value creation through the lens of care ethics from the perspectives of two key stakeholders – beneficiaries and social entrepreneurs – in a developing country context to offer critical insight into the field. The thesis provides a theoretical framework to explore the beneficiary experience of social value creation and juxtaposes this experience against the social entrepreneur’s notion of the phenomenon. The thesis also systematically reviews the nascent literature on social value creation in social entrepreneurship. It further offers important insights into social entrepreneurship research methods within the context of a developing country in Southeast Asia. Four papers comprise the thesis, two of which are empirical papers and two are conceptual papers.

Paper One reinforces the relevance of social value creation to the ethical nature of social entrepreneurship by offering a framework of social value creation as care, drawn from the perspective of vulnerable beneficiaries within the context of a developing country. Using a multiple case study methodology, it offers an understanding of social value creation based on what beneficiaries care about in their work engagement with social enterprises.

Paper Two uses critical reflexivity to examine ethical tensions engendered in research fieldwork in a developing country context when implementing research protocols, crafted in a university in the developed world. It posits that closer consideration needs to be given to the contextual and relational aspects of ethical methods of doing social entrepreneurship research across cultural and international borders, particularly as it involves vulnerable research participants.

Paper Three is a systematic literature review of the empirical literature on social value creation in social entrepreneurship. Through a narrative synthesis, it depicts social value creation as a processual phenomenon that responds to opportunities to realise social impact through innovation and the collaboration of multiple actors as they engage in reciprocal relationships within a specific context. The paper discusses the implications of this finding on social entrepreneurship practice and suggests directions for future research towards a more inclusive and diverse conception of the social value creation construct.

Paper Four uses the social value creation as care framework of Paper One in a multiple case study to compare the perspectives of beneficiaries and social entrepreneurs on social value creation in social entrepreneurship. The empirical study contributes to the nascent literature on social entrepreneurship ethics and offers a critical view of the field by considering the power imbalance between these two key stakeholders. It enriches the contextual diversity of social entrepreneurship knowledge which is currently characterised by a paucity of research in non-Western, developing country contexts. The comparison of the two perspectives uncovers paradoxes of care in beneficiary engagement which must be confronted through reflexivity, cooperation, and dialogue.

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