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Social Entrepreneurs as an innovation incubator for public service

Social Entrepreneurs as an innovation incubator for public service

  • Project description:

Because of intensive international competition as a sign of globalization, and in the context of reforms triggered by the economizing debate, public service will have to deal in the future with more complex tasks which need to be handled faster and with better quality but with more limited resources. However, this is not possible with the existing, common structures, competences and technologies. Therefore, the search for innovative and sustainable solutions for the institutions of public service is of great importance. In this context, the idea of the social entrepreneurship becomes more and more relevant: social entrepreneurs combine engagement in social affairs with the idea of entrepreneurial initiative, systematic organization and cost discipline within the corporation.

The social entrepreneur sector has expanded enormously over the last 20 years. Even in less developed countries the sector is growing two and a half times faster than the overall economy. In the face of the present situation it becomes obvious that social entrepreneurship can be considered to be one of the most important social political trends of the 21st century. The question as to what extent social entrepreneurs have the competence to find answers to the complex social political challenges increasingly attracts public interest. Can they use new approaches and employment structures and thereby become an example for reform endeavors in public service? To prevent the social political debate from being recognized only superficially and to ensure a substantial understanding of the relationship between public institutions and social entrepreneurs, it is essential to organize the current state of discussion and research.

In detail, it is of great importance (1) to analyze the innovation potential of social entrepreneurs in order to determine the impact on innovation and the devlopment of reform methods in public service that social entrepreneurs have as incubators. (2) Moreover, the relationship between public institutions and social entrepreneurs needs to be clarified. In this context, it is important to investigate whether social entrepreneurs have the capability of forcing traditional structures to become more open (e.g. more participative design) and to analyze social entrepreneurship’s relationship to public service: is it cooperative, competitive or complementary? (3) Furthermore, the working conditions in the social entrepreneur sector with its commonalities and differences in contrast to public service need to be investigated. It needs to be carved out what impact social entrepreneurs have in their position as employers and to what extent they undermine any reform endeavors of public service by using innovative (thus perhaps precarious) employment relationships. For a substantial understanding of the relationship between public service and social entrepreneurs, it is important (4) to investigate the future potential of social entrepreneurs and the consequences of this potential for public service. It also needs to be analyzed to what extent social entrepreneurs supersede public institutions through their actions, and how far certain sectors of social assumption of responsibility will be covered by private civil involvement in the future.

  • Initiator: Hans Böckler Foundation
  • Duration of the project: 2011-2012
  • Direction: Prof. Dr. Carsten Dreher (FU Berlin)