Dissertation Abstracts

From High-Tech Culture to Venture Philanthropy: A Case Study in the Mentoring of Social Entrepreneurship

Author: Stein, Asaf , steinasa@gmail.com
Department: Sociology and Anthropology
University: Bar-Ilan, Israel
Supervisor: Ilana F.Silber
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: Hebrew

Keywords: Entrepreneurship , Philanthropy , Gift Theory , Neoliberalism
Areas of Research: Theory , Economy and Society , Institutional Ethnography


In recent years, the concept of entrepreneurship has extended beyond the traditional realms of business and economy, gaining cultural prominence and garnering increasing academic interest. As yet, however, little research has been devoted to the ways in which the idea translates from the economic to the social realm. Nor, is it clear how the concept of entrepreneurship is constructed and experienced in non-profit institutional frameworks, such as new forms of philanthropy, venture philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship organizations. The study at hand aims to fill this gap by examining the ways in which 'entrepreneurship' is constructed and interpreted by participants in a mentoring program for ‘social entrepreneurship’ offered by a venture philanthropy foundation.

The first part of the dissertation provides an historical account of venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship as new developments that steer the idea of entrepreneurship into the heart of social action for the public good. The next chapter elaborates a theoretical framework for analysing the current field of study, drawing on two major theoretical developments. First, I draw on the concepts of 'governmentality' and the 'entrepreneurial self', originating from the work of Michel Foucault. Second, I consider the research tradition concerning 'the gift' and giving relationships (especially the ‘gift-paradigm’ school of thought, led by Alain Caillé and Jacques Godbout, among others).

The presentation of the findings is divided into two sections. First, I focus on the meaning and characteristics of entrepreneurship. Then, I consider the relationships of giving and receiving, as experienced by the program’s diverse participants. As it emerged from the fieldwork, entrepreneurship tends to be interpreted and experienced as: a) a cluster of personal traits, b) which is augmented by possession of knowledge, skills, and managerial ‘tools’, and c) operates in a social setting that positions the entrepreneur as an ideal figure, in both the market and the social spheres. However, each of these components, when applied to the idea of social entrepreneurship, also has aspects that are perceived as different from those of business entrepreneurship, and as relevant only to social action. Thus, social entrepreneurship is perceived to be based on the qualities necessary to business entrepreneurship, to which unique characteristics are added, at times causing disagreement and tension between the different actors involved with the mentoring program.

The second section of the dissertation findings focuses on the ties created between actors in the field. It is proposed that even now, as technologies and ideas from the business sphere gain prominence in the social sphere, ‘gift systems’ that establish relationships are still central to understanding all human encounters. The study at hand demonstrates how gift exchanges and ties between individuals in society exist also in the business-social sphere.
For the full abstract see: http://www.hevraty.org/?page_id=945

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