Social entrepreneurship as a response to disaster: An examination of cases following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
This thesis explores how social entrepreneurship develops following a crisis. A review of literature finds that despite more than 15 years of academic attention, a common definition of social entrepreneurship remains elusive, with the field lacking the unified framework to set it apart as a specialised field of study. There are a variety of different conceptualisations of how social entrepreneurship works, and what it aims to achieve. The New Zealand context for social entrepreneurship is explored, finding that it receives little attention from the government and education sectors, despite its enormous potential. A lack of readily available information on social entrepreneurship leads most studies to investigate it as a phenomenon, and given the unique context of this research, it follows suit. Following from several authors’ recommendations that social entrepreneurship be subjected to further exploration, this is an exploratory, inductive study. A multiple case study is used to explore how social entrepreneurship develops following a natural disaster, using the example of the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. With little existing theory in this research area, this method is used to provide interesting examples of how the natural disaster, recognised as a crisis, can lead to business formation. Findings revealed the crisis initially triggered an altruistic response from social entrepreneurs, leading them to develop newly highlighted opportunities that were related to fields in which they had existing skills and expertise. In the process of developing these opportunities, initial altruistic motivations faded, with a new focus on the pursuit of a social mission and aims for survival and growth. The social missions addressed broad issues, and while they did address the crisis to differing extents, they were not confined to addressing its consequences. A framework is presented to explain how social entrepreneurship functions, once triggered in response to crisis. This framework supports existing literature that depicts social entrepreneurship as a continuous process, and illustrates the effects of a crisis as the catalyst for social business formation. In the aftermath of a crisis, when resources are likely to be scarce, social entrepreneurs play a significant role in the recovery process and their contributions should be highly valued both by government and relevant disaster response bodies. Policies that support social entrepreneurs and their ventures should be considered in the same way as commercial ventures.