Connecting community participation with entrepreneurial thinking: A way forward?
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Backing people not structures, and using business techniques to achieve positive change are features of the social entrepreneur movement. In the crisis facing social welfare in western democracies and indeed global living, this movement suggests solutions that go beyond conventional partisan positions. Traditionally those on the left see large governments and increased spending as solutions to human marginalisation while those on the right argue for small government to build human independence and capacity. Both positions prioritise structures and institutions ahead of people. Social entrepreneurship emphasises investing in people and community to strengthen individuals and families in all their diversity. It challenges taken-for-granted boundaries between business, government, community, self-help, and philanthropy.This paper traces the emergence of the concept of social entrepreneurship within the discourse of the Third Way. After identifying problematics attached to the concept, the paper documents the development of social entrepreneurship in a remote Australian context and explores whether this way of working is new. Drawing on an in-depth interview with a social entrepreneur the paper concludes that the concept opens up new possibilities for community practice. These possibilities are not attainable through linear 'cook-book' steps to be followed by anyone, anywhere. Rather they are contingent on the actions and reflexivity of value based practitioners located in time and space in relationship with others. Using the voice of a grounded practitioner, the paper explores how an 'ethics of care', as articulated in feminist literature, is integral to the use of social entrepreneurship in renovating and making relevant civil society at this time in the north west of Australia.
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