Trusting an entrepreneurial orientation in the third sector

Julia Smith, Thomas Neal

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Through primary source fieldwork with public sector advisors and policy makers, we examine the role of entrepreneurship within charities, not-for-profits and nongovernmental organisations. We consider the literature on the development of social enterprises and explore whether entrepreneurial characteristics are necessarily a feature of such enterprises. These include risk-taking, the ability to identify a market gap, and innovative behaviour. Through primary-source evidence, gathered by face-to-face interviews with key policy makers and support workers in the charitable field, we debate whether the characteristics of an entrepreneur can and should be applied within social enterprises. Our findings are equivocal, in that some can see the benefit, whilst others worry about the commercialisation of public sector ventures and a lack of trust in the motivations of an entrepreneur. Overall, we recommend that further empirical evidence be examined, in order to identify whether and how having an entrepreneurial orientation might legitimise the behaviour of social enterprises.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2019
EventCNPR 2019 Conference: Charities, Nonprofits and Ngos: (Re)building Trust and Legitimacy - Queen's University, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sept 20194 Sept 2019


ConferenceCNPR 2019 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • social enterprises
  • entrepreneurial characteristics
  • primary-source evidence
  • face-to-face interviews
  • public sector


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