April 15, 2013, by ICCSR

Everyday entrepreneuring – sowing the seeds for more sustainable business.

The usual, everyday patter we hear around us about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship conjures up inevitable clichés: entrepreneurs are brash innovators, charismatic to the nth degree, relentless in their pursuit of profit. Likewise, we have all become familiar with the argument that entrepreneurship is a panacea for economic downturns; all we need to do is “to grow a few more Bransons and Sugars” and the UK will bounce happily towards a bright economic future. These views are not inaccurate as their roots can be traced to robust economic theory. Indeed, Schumpeter (1934), an influential economist who offered early explanations of entrepreneurship, told us long ago that entrepreneurship is a special type of economic change where a “Man of Action” [sic –the entrepreneur was always a ‘he’!] delivers economic growth through entrepreneurial action. Over the course of the intervening years, the field of entrepreneurship scholarship has branched off to explore various subsets e.g. technology entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship, international entrepreneurship and, of particular interest to me, social entrepreneurship.

Social entrepreneurship stands out as an activity not afraid of wearing its heart on its sleeve as it set about using the tools of for-profit business approaches to tackle a social mission. Social entrepreneurship can be understood as the “values-driven” younger sibling of traditional entrepreneurship. However, sometimes social entrepreneurship rhetoric is awkward, perhaps as the approach uncomfortably bears the weight of others’ high expectations. Indeed, just as traditional entrepreneurship is seen as the panacea for economic growth social entrepreneurship has been platformed alongside the so-called “Big Society” as a solution to fill the gap left by haemorrhaging public funding and the resulting retreat of the state from certain areas of social service provision.

Both concepts, on the one hand “traditional, economic entrepreneurship” and on the other “social entrepreneurship”, require us to draw boundaries around what activity we view as included under the umbrella of entrepreneurship. Today on World Entrepreneurship Day, I wonder perhaps whether we can liberate our views of entrepreneurship and consider it as something more resembling an everyday practice? Some have coined the term “entrepreneuring” (Rindova et al. 2009); broadly understood as entrepreneurial activity with the potential to emancipate by creating societal change. Importantly, this can start small, at a grass roots level by ordinary, everyday people who are not solely motivated to act by a capitalist desire “to make their millions”.

As I draw this brief blog to an end, I’ll leave you with an example of “entrepreneuring” that landed on my doormat a week or so ago. It was an invite to an “Edible Avenue” event. What was this? Well, three women in my immediate neighbourhood in Nottingham had raised some money from a local councillor to encourage people to plant seeds together to increase awareness and knowledge of gardening and “growing your own”. We were invited to meet in their garden to plant some organic tomato seeds and share some homemade cake. The bigger picture here was that this simple initiative was about getting people who live on the same streets to think about how to create a closer-knit, more sustainable community where experiences and knowledge (about gardening or otherwise) can be shared. Incredible Edible in Todmorden (http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/) and The Transition Network (http://www.transitionnetwork.org) both started in a similar way. For me, these activities help bring to life that the tentative beginnings of entrepreneurship are all around us in small-scale community activities and emergent social movements. Even if it doesn’t receive the media (and academic) attention afforded to the fast-growth “gazelles” businesses or the all-singing, all dancing entrepreneurial characters of Dragon’s Den, everyday entrepreneuring activity offers us a refreshing antidote to the stereotypes associated with “entrepreneurship”. As we return to our desks and daily lives, I invite you to ask yourself “what entrepreneurial seeds can I sow today for more sustainable and responsible everyday business practices”?

By Isobel O’Neil, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Nottingham University Business School

Image: photo of pea shoots by net_efekt reproduced under commercial commons license CC BY-NC 2.0.  Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/7027233953/


Posted in THEMES in Better Business