Religion and value-driven social entrepreneurship

Spear, Roger (2010). Religion and value-driven social entrepreneurship. In: Hockerts, Kai; Mair, Johanna and Robinson, Jeffrey eds. Values and Opportunities in Social Entrepreneurship. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave.



This chapter is concerned with the role of religion in social entrepreneurship. It takes an institutional perspective and examines the way religious institutions and actors have supported social entrepreneurship. Weber has argued for the role of (protestant) religion in motivating people to take entrepreneurial activity, leading to the rise of capitalism in the West. It has often been observed that religious groups especially sects or minority religious groups such as Quakers or Jews have strong links with entrepreneurial activity – there are a range of factors in the literature which help us explain this. These include in particular the place of high trust networks in facilitating entrepreneurial activity. In addition religious institutions (through leadership discourse and institutional networks) have historically played important roles in shaping the activities of religious members and priests as well as philanthropists. This has operated through religious leadership discourse, for example papal encyclicals orienting priests to support economic solutions to poverty and social problems in their communities, and the direct action of individual priests, institutional development (networks/organisations) and local religious leaders to catalyse entrepreneurial activity. Thus these three dimensions of religious institutions (ideological discourse, networks, and leadership) will be examined in relation to social entrepreneurship. For the sake of simplifying the empirical base of this study, the field of social entrepreneurship will be limited to social enterprise which are co-operatives, mutuals and trading voluntary organisations (or non-profits), since there is a good evidence base of religious involvement in entrepreneurship in this sector, from which a number of cases will be drawn using secondary sources. However the theoretical framework developed will be based on the broader field of literature linking religion and entrepreneurship, thus this theoretical framework should have applicability to broader definitions of the social entrepreneurship field. The chapter covers three religious institutional dimensions underlying social entrepreneurship:
• Institutions and high trust religious networks
• Ideology and religious leadership discourse
• Local religious leaders

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