The Case for Social Enterprise
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The bottom of the pyramid (BoP) approach popularised Prahalad (2004) as well as other writers such as Hart (2005) and London (2007), calls for the engagement of business with the bottom segment of the global income pyramid, and has attracted considerable attention and debate. The BoP lens is applied chiefly to communities experiencing ‘extreme poverty’ in low income countries with little reference to the growing number of people living in ‘relative poverty’ in high income countries. For the purpose of stimulating academic debate this paper seeks to explore the role of the so-called fourth sector, a domain for hybrid business ventures of social (and, in the case of this paper, Indigenous) entrepreneurs, at what we refer to as ‘the bottom at the top of the income pyramid’ in Australia. Using examples of Indigenous and social entrepreneurship within disadvantaged communities, we seek to highlight the scope for fourth sector enterprises at the lower end of the income spectrum within developed countries. It is suggested that the business models found within the fourth sector offer promising, alternative approaches for addressing the economic as well as social and cultural needs of those living on the fringes of today’s increasingly fragmented high-income societies.
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