Research Summary

Social Entrepreneurship

by James L. Heskett


This project is centered around an analysis of data and experiences of 31 executive directors of not-for-profit organizations who completed the Denali Initiative on social entrepreneurship, of which I was volunteer faculty chairperson, between 1999 and 2002. The purpose of the Initiative was to prepare individuals to help their organizations exploit alternative (in some cases, for-profit) sources of income to support their organizations' social purposes. Data under study includes information about the background of these individuals and their organizations, their governance structures, and the individual initiatives that each is pursuing. A longitudinal study of organizational and individual success and failure resulting from the Initiative is under way. This includes the collection of data relating alternative amounts of money expended and raised as well as desired social outcomes attributable to the entrepreneurial activity of these individuals and their organizations. The purpose is to explore the feasibility of efforts to develop social entrepreneurs. Preliminary findings suggest that it is just as important to include members of the boards of such organizations in the effort as it is executive directors. Governance issues have arisen as major challenges in the development of social entrepreneurs.