Series of Doctoral seminars in social entrepreneurship – Summary for the EJEB (1) : Teresa Nelson (Simmons College, Boston): The role of social capital in the context of social entrepreneurship (4th March)

Doctoral School in Management Sciences, UMons, HEC-ULg & Solvay-ULB Doctoral Seminar in Social Entrepreneurship (2013)

 This seminar held in the spring semester of 2013 aimed to equip doctoral students with theoretical and methodological skills for doing research in the field of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. The seminar traced social entrepreneurship research back to different approaches in economics, entrepreneurship and organization theory. Based on the critical analysis of theoretical and empirical articles, students got acquainted with several research avenues in the field. They then were asked to locate their own research project regarding the extant literature and to discuss their upcoming research agenda with the teachers and the other students. The 2013 edition was be organized against the background of the 4th EMES Research Conference on Social Enterprise  (Liege, 1-4 July 2013). As a way to share these efforts with the PhD community, the EJEB is launching a summary of each of the sessions included in this seminar. Each summary was written by PhDs participating in the Seminar.

Download the program of the Seminar here


This Monday 4th of March 2013, the second session of the doctoral seminar in social entrepreneurship was dedicated to the link between social entrepreneurship and social capital. Through the plethora of definition surrounding social capital, the latter may be conceived as “the ability of actors to extract benefits from their social structures, networks and memberships” (Lin et al., 1981; Portes, 1998, in Davidsson et al., 2003, p. 5).

In this context, we had the pleasure to welcome the Professor Teresa Nelson from the Simmons College, Boston, and to assist to her presentation covering her insights and research on social capital in social entrepreneurship. She explained the social capital is a popular concept among many other types of capital, with controversial theoretical roots and which may be considered and analyzed at both individual and collective level. Since entrepreneurship is a social game (Davidsson et al., 2003), and therefore socially embedded in network structures (Aldrich, 1987), she considers the social capital as a mean to explain how and what social entrepreneurship activities happen. She further outlined theoretical issues on social capital for social entrepreneurship.

With Dr Myers, Professor Nelson performed a study exploring the role of social capital in the formation and growth of ventures embracing both social and commercial purposes. This study took the form of a business case, based on interviews, where the authors consider the social capital of Radha Basu, a former business woman who further engaged in a social entrepreneurship activity through the creation of the Anudip Foundation. The findings are multiple. Firstly, they observed that the social capital of social entrepreneurs allow them to engage in social capital expenditures where the motives and manifestations are diffuse and the commitments to reciprocal benefits are tacit. Secondly, they observed that the role of the social entrepreneurs may be more critical and have different facets in social ventures, as compared to commercial ones. Consequently, the authors explained “the survival of social ventures may be more dependent on their founders that other ventures” (Myers et al., 2011, p. 14). Thirdly, the authors explained that “the network structure of the social entrepreneur/founder may have unique effects on her ability to achieve her objectives” (Myers et al., 2011, p. 14). Finally, the authors explained that “the social capital deployed by social entrepreneurs is embedded in a network structure that comprises not only different organizational fields but societal sector as well” (Myers et al., 2011, p. 14). Based on their findings, the authors argued that combining social and commercial activities create new and different types of value chain relationships.

In the second part of the session, Nadège Lorquet and Frédéric Dufays, two PhD students, discussed the theoretical positioning of social capital and the surrounding empirical applications to social entrepreneurship. More concretely, the social capital may be approached as a dependent or an independent variable and may be conceived in different ways (Geindre & Dussuc, 2012); as a stock of private resources in a relationship network (Bourdieu, 1980), as a community (Coleman, 1988), as a result or the characteristic of a community (Putnam, 2000) or as an entire network and, at the same time, as individual resources (Nahapiet & Goshal, 1998). The latter corresponds to a mixed approach including the bridging and bonding forms of social capital. Always considering the theoretical positioning of social capital, they further highlighted the links between social capital and institutional theories. In a second time, Nadège Lorquet and Frédéric Dufays highlighted the empirical applications of social capital to social entrepreneurship. Among them, we may consider the bonding social capital as a way to focus on outcomes (e.g. creating value for society) and the bridging social capital as a way to focus on the entrepreneurship process or as a mean to acquire scarce resources.

Corentin_VermeulenCorentin Vermeulen is currently working as a researcher at the Public Research Center Henri Tudor in Luxembourg. He holds a master in management sciences with a specialization in investment and corporate finance from the Louvain School of Management. Before integrating the Tudor Center, Corentin Vermeulen was working at Ernst & Young, Luxembourg as a financial auditor specialized in the industry of both retail and real estate investment funds. His current researches cover both the responsible approach of sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) funds and the contribution of intellectual capital to the performance of financial institutions.


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