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Sensemaking the 'social' in social entrepreneurship

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jonathan Kimmitt



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd., 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


In the collective imagination, the practices and outcomes of social entrepreneurship seem to hold hope for a better future. So far, these practices have been largely assumed as idealized types with the ‘social’ in social entrepreneurship under explored. Such assumed neutrality, we argue, is hampering the development of a more robust theoretical corpus for understanding the phenomenon and inspiring practices that are more effective. In this paper, we analyse the sensemaking of the ‘social’ in social entrepreneurship by exploring the ways in which social entrepreneurs make sense of social problems and develop solutions for tackling them. Our empirical analyses of the stories of 15 social entrepreneurs point to two distinct types of sensemaking and sensegiving practices, aligned with Amartya Sen’s notions of social justice. Drawing on these findings, sensemaking and social justice theory, we elaborate a 2-type social sensemaking model pertaining to the appreciation and assessment of circumstances, and the differing problem/solution combinations emerging from alternative ontological views of what constitutes a social problem.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kimmitt J, Muñoz P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Small Business Journal

Year: 2018

Volume: 36

Issue: 8

Pages: 859-886

Print publication date: 01/12/2018

Online publication date: 25/07/2018

Acceptance date: 25/06/2018

Date deposited: 27/06/2018

ISSN (print): 0266-2426

ISSN (electronic): 1741-2870

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0266242618789230


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